CHED and Twitter users: why ‘Tweeps’ should stop playing God

I’ve seen two “reports” about the whole false brouhaha being raised about the reluctance of the Philippines’ Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to start using “social media” to broadcast information that supposedly is relevant to its “constituency”. Self-described “social media practitioner” Tonyo Cruz went as far as calling the CHED a “village idiot” for not joining the social media bandwagon. Cruz cited how that government agency “willingly chooses to insulate itself from its biggest bulk of constituencies” by not opening and maintaining Facebook and Twitter accounts.

What is wrong with this picture?

First of all there is something quite funny about a mob of “social media practitioners” (needless to say, most of whom are Twitter users) presuming to make a call on the rightness of wrongness of a government agency not opening Facebook or Twitter accounts. To a Twitter user (many of whom describe themselves as “Tweeps”), of course it makes “perfect sense” for a government agency — or anyone for that matter — to operate a Facebook or Twitter account. If you were weighing the pros and cons of getting a tattoo, would you seek advise only from a tattoo artist? Of course not. So for the GMANews.tv “reporter” who fired off this report, use a bit of your “reporter” brains to find the irony in this here factoid you “report”:

CHED weathered a Twitter storm of criticism for its slowness in using web tools to reach the public.

Twitter users — sorry, Tweeps — will of course tell you that the best way to get information nowadays is via Twitter. Analyse that.

What we need in this “debate” is an ambivalent party — someone who uses “social media” but does not necessarily see it as a be-all-end-all. That would be me. And what I will add to this “debate” is a bit off-tangent (as one would expect of lateral thinkers such as moi). University students need not be told whether classes are suspended or not. Even in fair weather, university students are always engaged in an internal debate around whether to attend class or not — even as they walk towards their next class. A couple of friends and I once stopped in our tracks just as we were about to take the final five steps to our Physics class, and decided to instead take a 30-minute jeepney ride to SM North Edsa to catch a movie. You don’t need Twitter to make decisions like those when you are in University (then again, perhaps the ADD generation might beg to differ).

Second, if there is something we learned from the Mendoza bus hostage tragedy (which, by the way, is nearing its first anniversary this year on August 23), it is that in times of crisis, we need to take better control of what information about what to do gets out there. Perhaps weather and class suspension advisories are not as timing critical or as life-and-death relevant as police operations. But there is something about rooting for a chaotic din of digital noise at the expense of a reliable single source of truth. When it comes to life-threatening inclement weather, I believe it makes better sense to hand over public advisory to a proper authority that has a specific expertise and qualified specialisation in matters of national emergency. The CHED, the Department of Education, and even Malacañang have their own core competencies — which is to develop, implement, and administer policy. Managing crises is certainly not among their best qualities or even part of their scope of responsibility. For that, we have our emergency services and our police and armed forces. There just needs to be a clear definition of categories of public communications, and which agency is responsible for what category.

The problem with “social media” is that it has become an ecosystem for mob mentalities and half-baked or, worse, ill-thought-out pronouncements. When one is limited to 140 characters or needs to compete for attention in rapidly scrolling “news feeds,” it seems that sense is the first thing that goes out the window.

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8 Comments on “CHED and Twitter users: why ‘Tweeps’ should stop playing God”

  1. Ahh touche’ great points there. College students fail to see the lesson here, it’s training for their nearing professional careers that are rarely suspended in these storms. It’s one thing to rely on social media, it’s another thing to be obsessed with it. Frankly, Filipinos are obsessed with it which is rather unhealthy. Suspensions are announced one way or another, It’s definitely going to get out there. There’s gonna be loads of posts, RTs and mass text messages so, why bother? I can say that social media is really convenient, but not entirely reliable.

  2. CHED has a web site. It has a page on “announcements” if anyone is interested. What the twits want is someone to come kissy-kissying into their “friendship” circle, which is this vast pond about 3 centimeters deep in which people thrash about admiring their ability to stick burrs under saddles or kisses on derrieres. Social media contribute to the deceits and extremism on the rise in the US, where a crisp sound bite or sneaky distortion goes a long way to mislead, befuddle or castrate the most sincere person. I am pretty disgusted with how things are playing out, myself. I think twitting is like a bunch of snide little Jerry Springer elves running about getting into everyone’s pie.

  3. Every time I hear another comment from one of these self-proclaimed “social media experts” about how vital Twitter is, the more stubbornly I ignore it.

  4. Twitter is one of the most indecipherable format of communication ever invented. It’s full of half-conversations and inane ramblings.

    1. It looks that way when you check in on your “timeline” infrequently. To get a good grasp of the actual “dialogue” amongst “tweeps” going on in that world, you pretty much need to be tethered to that “feed” at least 12 hours a day. And that is what gives Twitter its powerful stranglehold over its users — this “need” to be “in the loop” for most of your waking hours. This fundamental human need to remain connected is a potent emotional hook that’s been exploited brilliantly by “social media”. Limiting each every burst of communication coming from its users to 140 characters ensures that those who receive it will stay tuned (read, remain logged on) for the next instalment — and the next one, and the next one.

  5. “The CHED, the Department of Education, and even Malacañang have their own core competencies — which is to develop, implement, and administer policy.”

    i doubt if either of the 3 mentioned are competent to the core…

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