A COMMUNICATION BLOG WHERE OPINIONS POP

Because Facebook is Filipino

I can vividly remember the first time I learned what Facebook is all about. It was in 2007- when a close friend of mine living halfway around the globe was nowhere to be ‘found’ except on this social networking site. I created an account, added him as my first friend, and used the account for mere communication with him. I had so much hesitations on creating an account back then- without knowing that the very site will have 400 million active users by 2010.

Yes, 400 million, and as I think of it, I can imagine almost the whole world is in Facebook. I decided to use and update my own account in April 2009 because of some personal matters. I was surprised to see that my batchmates, classmates, friends I met in my 12 years of being a student could only be found in one site. The summer in 2009 gave me a hard time dealing with some emotional problems (yes, I was that serious, haha) and so, I decided to give my life a new taste. One of these was to join a new social networking account than Friendster, which I had used for three years, and make new friends. Luckily, I found a ‘home’ in Facebook.

And I found a new ‘home’ in the company of my new-found Korean friends online. It is really difficult to find foreign friends online who have the same interest as you do, whom you like, and like you back. One of them, a really dear friend, posted in her account last week:

Yes, Facebook is not widely used by South Koreans. But according to the 2009 Internet World Statistics, South Korea ranks as the fourth country in Asia who has the most number of Internet users. Philippines, where members of social networking sites (and some of them have multiple accounts even), ranks in the sixth place.

South Korea has a huge number of Internet users but some of them have accounts on Facebook. There are Korean social networking sites, too, such as  Cyworld (minihompy) http://www.cyworld.com/ss9696, and Korean celebrity news say that using Twitter is an emerging trend there nowadays. However, despite ranking two places below South Korea, Philippines can be inferred to hold a huge number among the 400 million Facebook users or even all Filipino Internet users have own Facebook accounts. My theory or idea  before that Facebook is trans-cultural and universal is now wrong. Then, what is it in Facebook that makes Filipinos addicted to using it?

Only in the Philippines

I believe that Filipino culture and values has a lot to do with the rise of Facebook (FB)usage in the country. Many would say that Filipinos are social people and that makes FB usage even more rampant. But then, aren’t other cultures social as well? It’s striking to note that Friendster and Facebook were and are both widely used by Filipinos although the two do not have the same features. Aside from adding friends, posting comments, and posting and uploading photos or videos, the two sites have their own qualities. What does these sites, FB in particular, have that make Filipinos so receptive? Here are some Filipino values related to communication that Tomas Andres discussed in his book, Filipino Behavior at Work.

The Filipino Sociostat

According to Tomas Andres (2001), this is the Filipino tendency to stay in the group rather than to stick out. Filipinos are part of a collective culture still no matter how the principles of individualism apply to some aspects of our culture. It is still Filipino to identify one self in a group and enjoy the company of a certain one. Perhaps, peer pressure can be one of the factors that influence one to have his or her FB account as everybody in school or workplace talks about the latest fanpage or FB application there is. Bandwagon could be another. Everyone has his or her accounts and that is the only reason why a person should create his or her own. Reasons like these.  But then, it is still evident in Filipino culture to be part of a whole or a group rather than enclose oneself to being alone.

Tsismis

Tomas Andres also classifies this Filipino value related to communication to be the tendency of Filipinos to know the private or secret life of a person and to spread such secrets. He also accounts that this is the favorite pastime of Filipinos at the expense of others. True enough, who disagrees that most of the tsismis we know now are the information we read in our friends’ posts in their walls? Our own ‘Home’ page in our own accounts is open (unless we filter or hide some friends’ updates)- we can view and know what our friends are up to, are feeling, or are planning to do with no so much effort at all. Sometimes, even though we did not intend to, we come to know those information. Moreover, the ‘comment’ feature of FB in every post allow us to ask further or give our reactions to our friends. When there is something we read new or unusual in FB, we can’t help to comment. We can’t help to discuss among ourselves online a certain issue.

Parinig

Filipinos are non-confrontational people in general. We have to prevent conflicts as much as possible even though it takes for us to conceal what we genuinely feel or think. Communication, then, becomes high-context because the real meaning of a Filipino’s statements are no longer explicitly stated. Andres calls parinig, letting the intended party hear by speaking to a different person, is a way of communicating the truth without hurting the feelings of the receiver. In Facebook context, posting a status, liking a page, or allowing or joining an application can be considered how this communication style is apparent.

See? Even conversations are in the Internet now, Filipino idiosyncracies, particularly in communication, will stay the same.

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13 responses

  1. Karen

    No wonder Facebook is such a big hit in the Philippines! Haha.

    I like how you’ve shown bits and pieces of Pinoy personality while discussing Orcom 2011’s favorite topic that we fondly call Facebook. (Favorite? I’ve yet to see an entry that doesn’t mention Facebook, haha! Now, I’m exaggerating.:) )

    The points raised about tsismis and parinig are really true. I can still remember how several fights started because of Facebook status updates, for crying out loud! Sometimes, we’re too emotional that we forget to use our head before actually posting such status updates. We must always remember this basic communication rule: Never write or post anything when you’re extremely emotional because you’ll never know where your emotions would take you.

    July 18, 2010 at 11:19 PM

    • Haha, yes, Facebook is not yet dethroned on being our batch’s favorite topic. 🙂

      I agree with you that how we communicate our emotions in social networking sites like FB lead to misunderstandings and hard feelings among ‘friends’. Our emotions mostly serve as our impulses, that we don’t become rational anymore in, say, posting status or tagging people. I think the bottomline here is that we should be accountable for whatever consequence our posts will lead to and be firm to say in person what we say in our FB accounts. Now, FB can be a measure of courage and being a person with one word. :p

      July 22, 2010 at 10:54 AM

  2. I can relate to the last part. Most of the time I write my status message or like some page to tell someone something without being obvious. It’s complicated. Haha. I also use it to express what I feel. For people like me who are not very much comfortable with sharing problems to others, status message is the way to go.

    Anyway given that Filipinos have this culture and that organizations today are starting to realize the importance of each employee’s ideas and opinions, companies should learn how to utilize these to their advantage.
    Since Filipinos are generally uncertain when it comes to sharing their ideas (especially to their superiors), organizations can use Facebook to maybe look into their employee’s opinions. Who knows, one day that employee’s message might bring billions of pesos in that company. Or if the employee talks about how his or her boss shouted at him or her—how much they hated it— the boss can use it to know his or her sentiments and learn from it how to deal with him better next time.

    Even though a certain group of people’s characteristics are not that positive, as long as you know how to deal with them, you’ll do fine. In other words, organizations have the power to use social networking sites or the internet in general to create better relationships and function better. We control the internet, not the other way around.

    July 19, 2010 at 11:03 PM

    • Yes, in one way, Facebook is the perfect avenue for people who are the silent type and not-so-gregarious to open up and make others aware of how they truly feel about things. 🙂

      Whoo, you got a good idea there in your point. “Since Filipinos are generally uncertain when it comes to sharing their ideas (especially to their superiors), organizations can use Facebook to maybe look into their employee’s opinions. Who knows, one day that employee’s message might bring billions of pesos in that company.” I think a new position with the task of analyzing or decoding the conversations or posts employees make in their accounts would be good! Haha. 😀 This may be a breakthrough in dealing with grapevine communication, then!

      July 22, 2010 at 11:03 AM

  3. Filipinos are social beings. I don’t think I have to come up with concrete proof to say this. It is practically obvious. If anything, I guess this could have been the reason why we somehow dominate social network sites. I agree that one of the things why Filipinos love Facebook is because we love to gossip. We want to talk about other people all the time. With “parinig”, I think it goes to show how we like to express our opinions, no matter how bad, but as much as possible we like to avoid doing it in an outright manner. In this case, I think businesses who place any kind of value to the Filipino people’s opinions, must in some way understand this kind of communication behavior. It is because there is every possibility that what we talk about, what we make “parinig” about, in Facebook just might be their products or services.

    July 21, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    • This trait of Filipinos, us having the “parinig” trait, has two implications in organizations I believe. If organizations are not able to use this communication behavior of the Filipinos in a positive note, it will be perceived to be detrimental to business. Relationships in organizations will be forever at stake. However, if this is managed properly and comes to the point that it’s a source of competencies and excellence, then organizations are surely be hitting the right thing. :p

      July 22, 2010 at 11:21 AM

  4. As I remember it was Friendster first, then Multiply, and then Facebook.

    I like how you discussed how Facebook somehow “caters” to the culture of Filipinos. In fact, the whole nature of social network sites (SNS) is very Filipino. We love connecting with people, and we use whatever means to accomplish this.

    I also realized that more than vanity or personal branding, many Filipinos do use Facebook as a source of gossip. We love it when we see people fight, “wall to wall” or when we discover that a close friend is in love or our old teacher in high school is now a strip dancer. Okay, the last example was my mind’s creativity at work but it could happen, right? And Facebook would be our way of discovering that.

    Upon reading your post I suddenly felt this great pride of being a Filipino. I love our “people oriented-ness.” I love how we’re all social people by culture.

    July 21, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    • Haha, your creativity at work made me laugh hard, Patty. 😀

      Yes, I agree with you that instead of seeing these Filipino traits as negative ones, we should be rather proud that our culture is people-oriented. This I believe is an asset for Filipinos to adapt to whatever culture they have to fit in and that becoming globally competitive is no problem. This trait will enable us to be assets of our own organizations as well as effective and productive socialization seems to be the key in dealing with the new organizational demands.

      July 22, 2010 at 11:26 AM

  5. I do not think Facebook is Filipino at all, or that any specific ethnic or cultural label can be attached to it. Simply put, it’s a social medium that has features that can be utilized differently depending on how your social circle is. In fact, it took a long time (especially in internet time) for Filipinos to start adopting Facebook as a social network of choice.

    I personally think that “parinig” is a destructive Filipino trait and the fact that Filipinos don’t like confrontations is lame. Those useless Facebook pages are pretty funny though.

    What I would like to see is Filipinos using social networking sites more towards productivity and creating meaningful connections instead of using it as a place to breed tsismis and other irrelevant ek-eks (LOL).

    To be honest, I’ve grown to dislike most of the Filipino traits that I grew up with. That there are so many Filipino traits that hinder progress.

    July 25, 2010 at 3:26 AM

    • Thank you for this comment! This is, uhmm, gold. Haha. I thought you wouldn’t respond to my Twitter posts! 😀

      July 27, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    • Gel

      We should contextualize “progress” for that matter.

      Filipinos are relational people. We can be productive while mingling online. For the Filipino, every connection IS meaningful. We seldom base its being meaningful on the benefit those connections would bring us. That’s NOT Filipino, perhaps a trait adopted by some Filipinos who should keep up with the professional, multinational world. There’s nothing wrong with that. Likewise, there’s nothing wrong with being Filipino.

      We should stop, look around, and interact more with fellow Filipinos. We should study our culture. Intellectualize it. See it in its own context and not in how the superpowers view us. Then and only then would we appreciate our being Filipino. 🙂

      Nice post Jody! 😀

      August 5, 2010 at 9:12 AM

  6. Hi Jody, 🙂
    I think Philippines is one of the many countries that appreciates Facebook so much. Yes, it is true that we love to connect with people and Facebook gives us an opportunity to do so. Maybe for other countries, they have other sites that they favor but most sites nowadays have an option to chat or exchange messages (like in online games). In effect, even if it is not Facebook, there is still some level of conversation in there.
    Tsismis and parinig are not really the best qualities of Filipinos but I think it is one way of expressing one’s feelings. I think people should just be careful about whatever they post because unlike other media, the range of social media is very wide and hurtful comments about a person or even posts of a person can really affect his/her reputation online and offline.

    August 12, 2010 at 4:00 PM

  7. Real nice post there Jody. I like how a topic like Filipino social culture and Facebook are backed by research. I have a question for you though? Why Facebook/Friendster? What about MySpace or Hi5? The things we do on FB/FS (tsismis, parinig, grouping, fan page) can also be done there particularly on MySpace. But why didn’t it become a Pinoy household term like FS/FB?

    September 23, 2010 at 2:09 AM

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