Social media, as defined by Merriam-Webster, are “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content”. Social media can also be referred to as a form of computer-mediated communication (McIntyre, 2014). On the other hand, social networking sites such as Facebook, are “web-based services that allow individuals to 1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, 2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and 3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (Boy & Ellison, 2008). Aside from Facebook, some popular social networking sites are Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram, and these social networking sites will be the specific type of social media discussed in this paper. Each of the previously mentioned social media websites have been avenues for the average Filipino to express their thoughts on their daily lives, and more specifically, their reactions to prevalent issues in the Philippine society. In this paper, social media will be discussed and analyzed deeper, with regard to its relevance in connecting people, particularly the youth, to issues in society and increasing their political participation.
Much of the existing academic literature on the topic of social media has been published within the past decade. Social media, as well as the Internet, has been a popular topic among scholars in various disciplines, including communication, psychology, sociology, and business (McIntyre, 2014). There have been several studies on the processes of social media, and its effects in areas such as marketing, education, and politics. Although the use of the Internet has evolved from just e-mail and online chatting, social networking and online communities as we know it today may have started with UseNet. UseNet was a network that connected computers from around the world, hosting discussion groups where users could engage in live conversation. The website gained popularity through its “niche groups”, that were as diverse as it could get. There were groups for all lines of work, all kinds of interests, and because of this, UseNet was described as “the world’s largest conversation on everything” (Weise, 1998). From this, it can be observed that for decades, the Internet has served as an avenue for conversation and connection, be it a neighbor or someone across the Pacific Ocean. The Internet breaks boundaries and brings its users closer to one another, creating a virtual space wherein people can share and exchange ideas freely.
In the present age of technology, it is no surprise that the number of Internet users both globally and locally continue to increase. Global Internet penetration has been steadily rising, from 44% in 2015, to 46% in 2016. As for the Philippines, social media penetration in particular has been increasing steadily as well, with an 18% increase from 2014 to 2015, followed by a 7% increase from 2015 to 2016. Through local government initiative “Juan, Konek”, social networking sites are made more accessible to Filipinos, as the project aims to provide citizens with Internet access around the metro, such as in airports, hospitals, and other government officers. Another notable statistic is the top age groups of social media users in the Philippines. The millennial age group (ranging from ages 20-29) comprise the majority of Facebook users, followed by the 13-19 year olds, and 30-39 year olds, respectively. A key observation is that the younger social media users are gaining ground online, and with their purchasing and voting powers, they are the most empowered to create major change in the country. Social media has become a vital marketing tool for businesses, and it is evident that these businesses are aware of the great millennial online population, given the content of their advertisements. Businesses create advertisements and promotions that incorporate memes, and other viral content to appeal to millennials, arguably the largest market online. In this regard, the knowledge of these demographics are is not limited to just businesses, but to various organizations as well.