Random Thought #4

I used to be an e-book snob – I preferred the tactile experience of reading a physical version of a book. Eventually I caved in and bought a Kindle (it’s still with me, all of 11 years old, the rugged workhorse). I also learned to consume – and actually finish – books from my smartphone, especially while on the train or the bus.

We need to adapt or perish. The battleground of these elections was on social media. We lament that majority of the newer generation never read anymore, but that’s not accurate – they do, not just books. They read on screens. They read social media posts, they read comments. They still consume information, but through TikTok and YouTube and short clips on Facebook. Bongbong Marcos exploited this; he and his team knew what they were doing.

I love reading columns, political columns, and I’m sure a lot of you do as well. Good columnists who know their stuff help shape our minds and influence our decisions. But a lot of kids nowadays, they won’t read a 2,000-word column. We take time to read – and enjoy – long-form writing, even on screens; they don’t.

This is the appeal of Facebook and TikTok and YouTube. Of Twitter. Guess who are the most-read poets of this generation? The Instapoets: Rupi Kaur, Lang Leav, and their ilk. I’m not saying they are good writers, lest I earn the ire of my poet friends. What I’m saying is that by dint of their genius – genius, not in the sense of their writing prowess (or lack thereof?) but genius nonetheless – the genius of exploiting this generation of readers’ penchant for scrolling down and their short attention spans and their need for reading but on their own terms, Kaur, Leav, and their ilk have earned the right to be called poets. You don’t agree? Tell that to the millions of Kaur’s and Leav’s Instagram followers who don’t think twice about shelling out their hard-earned money to buy these Instapoets’ poetry collections or to book tickets to their speaking tours.

Bongbong Marcos and – to an extent, six years earlier – Rodrigo Duterte brought the fight to social media. They didn’t fight a fair fight, not at all, what with the disinformation they’ve spewed thanks to the well-funded troll farms they’ve unleashed.

But we need to adapt or perish. Traditional media, who have been playing catch up all this time, need to fight back. They need to fight disinformation through the same channels that were used to target and diminish them in the eyes of this generation in the first place. If mainstream media must learn the language of TikTok and other platforms just to fight back, then so be it.

Facts vs. disinformation but, at the very least, fought in their own battlefield.
We have to figure this out. We need to give ourselves a puncher’s chance.

 
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