Mapping Out Social Cues

In an age where instantaneous communication has become primordial to any degree of relationships, rare would an isolated situation arise where the people are left unaware.

The Web 2.0 lifestyle has allowed this generation to enjoy the pragmatic processes of interaction and communication. Where once the lengthy struggle of finding what to say and how to say it involved the risk of humiliation has now evolved to a single click on a status update, a simple comment on a photo album , or perhaps a re-tweet of an interesting link.

The whole culture of social networking has begotten a totally different set of social cues, social etiquette and media. The very “wall” which it has employed others to use as a barrier for true personal identity is the very same wall the art of social networking breaks when people submit themselves to the interplay of voyeurism and exhibitionism.

And such has become a necessity, especially because we live in a globalized world where each country’s competitive advantage rests also on tangible exchanges that uncover emergent and informal communication between the parties at play.

The vital question that arises therefore is whether we are losing patriotism, local tradition and values, and in turn being Filipino by becoming social.
Philippine modern society is highly liquid, modern culture is highly individualised, and globalization produces local effects – the landscape of society, culture, and technology is constantly transforming and in response to our own interactions.

How this affects a traditionally orally based Filipino culture is seen by the statistics as the nation is now a major user of SMS (with use at 10 times the global average), with a 50% take-up rate for mobile telephony and 25% Internet penetration. Founded by a society that has a very strong private and a weak public culture, its public sphere is an unclaimed territory open to predatory acquisition (mainly by adept politicians, but also by everyday citizens). The social structure is characterised by the gift economy, and based on consociation; trust is severely limited and includes only close friends and kin, and so Filipinos try to personalise their contacts either through intermediaries or the establishment of an elaborate system of personal relationships.

Which is why much of the exchanges through such networks still only involve close friends and relations, and remain relatively banal; the main use of such messages is to maintain the relationships themselves. However, there are also text-only relationships which are not translated into the offline environment, as is the same with social network contacts. Such uses imbue the mobile and new media with a significant personal value, the phone becomes an extension of the person, and its loss is acutely felt.

The new media is therefore a technology of transformation, and banality has a significant role to play in this context; it provides a reassurance in the context of an increasingly complex and incomprehensible world. It also provides a new space for cultural participation and interaction, and the development and exploration of different personas. This significantly changes social relationships, and allows new spheres for sociality to emerge. However, most changes are also increasingly being able to be absorbed into the continuously changing systems themselves – posing the same challenge we face as new technologies arise – Do we come off better or do we actually lose more than the original problem the technology supposedly addressed?