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The revolution online

By Ella Rivera Published Nov 20, 2020 5:00 am Updated Nov 20, 2020 7:10 pm

We talk to the people behind Media Commoner and PAGASA PH on how they create content, what we can do to improve online discourse, and the ways we can bring online activism to life.

If you frequent Instagram, then you might have encountered these bite-sized slides of information in aesthetically pleasing squares, containing news, political messages, or cultural insights in them. The debate is still out there on what they are called — some say it’s PowerPoint activism, others have coined the term Instagraphics. They all serve the same purpose: to educate their audience on complex issues in a more digestible, user-friendly way.

We’ve seen the rise in popularity of these posts over the course of this laborious year, a possible reaction to the politicization of our social media platforms, along with the need to understand these issues better from a reader’s point of view. Since the format is fairly new, what can these posts do? How can we do better when it comes to informing the masses and taking online activism on-ground?

We talked to JP Campos of Media Commoner and Keisha Uy and Anina Abola of PAGASA PH and asked their insights about their platforms and how these can bring change, one post at a time.

YOUNG STAR: We saw a rise in these types of content this year, especially on Instagram, which is a very visual medium. How do you approach design and content?

 JP Campos of Media Commoner

JP CAMPOS: Sa amin, it’s more editorialized. So when you see a post, there’s a certain emotion to it. It aims to make you feel something. Visuals pa lang, the color that we use, and the images that we include. It already tries to provoke a certain kind of emotion. 

We’ve gotten used to the type of journalism na it’s fact-based… but what I noticed, as someone who has worked in advertising and storytelling, is that there’s also harm in that — in presenting the facts without interpreting it. Social media taught us to consume news really, really fast, so news outlets have to produce news really, really fast, so that means na kukunin na lang ‘yung facts without connecting it to a bigger picture. Sa amin, what we do is kahit na ganon ‘yung approach namin (through slides) we still include the nuance of the story. We don’t oversensationalize the story (but) we interpret it so people are guided on how to feel and react to certain things.

How does the engagement differ between Instagram and your long-form posts?

Malayong malayo. The Click-Through Rate from a post (when) you include the link to it is, like, 3 to 5 percent. Hindi na rin kasi talaga nag-thrive ‘yung model wherein puro articles. Making your readers go to another site, it makes them feel that somehow it’s extra work, which is why we do what we do — which is we put important information in the slides so they can see it, so mabawas ‘yung barriers in between the audience and the relevant information that they need to know about.

How do we avoid the potential for misinformation?

I think media organizations really have to take a step forward in bringing really important information to where people are. Kasi, our enemy really isn’t just the idea of misinformation but people who pedal misinformation. Kailangan maunahan mo na sila before pa nila mailabas ‘yung material for this information. We have to change our attitude as storytellers — we have to prioritize our audience and treat them as stakeholders in our endeavor. At the end of the day, if the opposing side is bending all these rules and bending all these ethics and standards, matatalo ka. You have to find new and innovative ways of bringing your story and bringing that story to the people.

Do you think there are changes that need to be made when it comes to online discourse? 

When we talk about bigotry, when we talk about religious freedom and freedom of speech, we have to back our sentiments with bigger principles with a certain responsibility. The more time you spend on social media, your network grows. So as your network grows, your responsibility grows, and as your responsibility grows, you have to be more careful in the things that you say. Not just because there’s a chance that you might get canceled, but because you have this certain reach, and you can influence the way people think. As a person — disregarding your persona online — just as an individual, you have this responsibility to yourself to make yourself better, smarter, and more responsible. 

TAKING THE CLICKS TO THE REAL WORLD

As we consume and share important information online, it still raises the question of how it translates to our communities and people outside of our circle. The team of PAGASA discussed how we can be more productive on-ground.

How do you plan out your content?

KEISHA UY:  It really is all about what’s happening on the ground, and what’s urgent. As we went along, we also learned which issues to (focus on). We have this set of content called Terror Stories, it’s all about the impunity of the military and police against the marginalized, and our resources are really people from the ground who we know. The same way that we established on-ground connections when we do our relief work, it’s the same way that we establish connections with people who would tell us what’s happening.

 Keisha Uy of PAGASA PH

What is your audience like?

Our audience is young. These are kids who know there’s something happening... (But) what we didn’t realize was there was so much context in history that they do not know about. And that’s the thing that we also wanted to address with PAGASA — like “What if I’m not from the Liberal party, what if I’m not technically really from the left, it’s just that I want good governance and I want to hold government accountable. Is there a space for me?”

How can we push online activism in more tangible ways?

These online spaces, no matter how much we grew the following, is just one part of it. The next step is translation. It’s on-ground dissemination. Because Instagram is also limiting it to a certain audience. We can’t always bring the battle online and that’s it… The bigger battle that needs to be done is on-ground (and that’s why) we opened up our volunteer program (where it’s) different individuals without any political inkling at all (coming together). It’s just a matter of civic duty.

Any advice for people who are scared of being more vocal online due to the possible consequences, like red-tagging and the like?

 Anina Abola of PAGASA PH

ANINA ABOLA: Don’t worry — everyone who is doing this work is scared themselves. (They) know best how scary it really is and how it can be. It helps, still, to be around people you actually agree with. Especially for people who are starting out pa lang, follow people you agree with first. What people don’t realize din is that we’re very… optimistic. Are we optimistic, Keisha? (Laughs)

KEISHA: I think we are. No matter how bleak and uncertain things are, we always go back to the core of hope. As long as we’re able to mobilize our projects on the ground, that gives us hope. No matter how small, that’s also what keeps us going. One, we admit that there is fear, but, two, we don’t let it stop us from what we want to do. While we are scared online, mayroon pa ding tao na kailangan ng tulong. 

ANINA: It’s scary, but you have to find people. And you will find people. 

Banner caption: Art by Kitty Jardenil