The Potential of Social Media Platforms in the Internet in Facilitating Social Change: an Observation of the “Pro-Rh” Facebook Group.

Topics: Catholic Church, Reproductive health, Catholic social teaching Pages: 30 (11978 words) Published: April 25, 2013
The Potential of Social Media Platforms in the Internet in Facilitating Social Change: An Observation of the “Pro-RH” Facebook group.

The year 2011 is remembered as the year of the ‘Arab Spring”, a period in the world’s history marked with a series of revolutions, protests and wars aimed in overthrowing corrupt and autocratic governments and an increased demand for equality and social rights in the Arab world. Starting in a “self-immolation” act of a market seller in Tunisia, the awareness that fuelled the collapse of autocracy and the increased demand for change have brought the widespread protests in Bahrain and Egypt, civil wars in Libya and Syria, and government concessions in Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

An interesting point in this case is the role of Facebook and Twitterin spearheading political and social change in a society perceived to be unjust, corrupt and antiquated. With the increasing globalization and easement of communication barriers, the Internet is increasingly becoming a platform for a faster and more accurate dissemination of information that can fuel discontent, provide support for a specific cause or debate, and inform its subscribers (or netizens) on the specificities of an event or issue. This enabled a mass dissemination of information likened to the spread of a “virus”. Social media, according to Anderson (2009) is also seen to be an alternative to the mainstream and commercial media (Radio, TV and Print) where it can be prone for misinformation, censorship and bias in favour of the ruling government.

In the Philippines, social media usage is ubiquitous and popular especially among the youth aged 15-29 years. A study conducted by Nielsen (2011) said that approximately three out of ten Filipino consumers have internet access and 52% of these consumers have direct internet access in their own homes. Additionally, the Philippines is considered to be one of the countries reporting a high usage of Facebook and Twitter among the total internet users where it is currently ranked 8th and 6thin the world, respectively. Recent data from (2012) shows that 93.13% of those who have access to internet have access to Facebook, consisting of more than 30 million users or 30% of the total population. These data provides an important insight on the possible role of these sites in shaping and influencing Filipino society and discourse, characterized with the appearance of groups, vigilant “netizens” and news links embedded in these sites.

Through the years, these social media sites are increasingly being used to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction on a public issue, or create discussions to voice rising discontent on unpopular government policies. One issue that can be looked upon is the potential of these arenas to mobilize and enhance civic engagements through the encouragement of debates and lively discussions presenting the different sides and perspectives. This puts into analysis an important question. What is a civil society? And how does it develop the arenas for public engagement and action? Civil Societies and Public Spheres

According to several theorists and academics, civil society is an entity autonomous to the state that establishes a “space for uncoerced human association” (Walzer, as cited in Young, 2004; p.156). Civil societies are also entities that promote “trust, choice and virtues of democracy”, and being autonomous state actors can provide avenues for the emergence of arenas that will enable the general public to engage in the issues that are considered to be of a wider scope (Habermas, 2000; p.52). These “public spheres” are considered by Young (2000; p.155) to hatch in civil societies, since it enables members of the social sphere to “express their experiences and formulate opinions”. She further insinuates that civil society provides opportunities for citizens, disenchanted by the corruption of the mass media and its possible ties to the state,...

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2. Ateneo Professors (15, October 2008). “Catholics can support RH too”. Message posted on professors-position-paper-on-rh-bill-5043/.
4. Canare, R.G. (20, December 2012) “In the battle for pushing the RH bill...”. Message posted on:
5. Canonizado, B. (11, October 2012). “A Call to Reveille” Message posted on:
7. Echauz, A. (6, August 2012). “1. I hate the RH bill because...”. Message posted on:
8. Gamboa, M. (17, September 2012) “Pass the RH bill”. Message posted on:
9. Hontiveros, R. (26, November 2012). “Catholic voice is for RH”. Message posted on: rh/10151164278713182.
10. Lim, A.D. (28, April 2011). “Gone are the days...” Message posted on:
11. Morales, A. (28, April 2011). “Nagpraktis ng family planning...” Message posted on:
12. Parokya ng Tatlong Hari (6 September 2012). “The Negative Effects of the RH bill”. Message posted on: health-bill/147048072004664.
13. Pena, S. (14, August 2012). “We, the Filipinos have always live with dirty politics”. Message posted on:
14. Pinon, G. (8, August 2011). “Being an Agnostic RH...” Message posted on:
15. The Varsitarian (2011) “RH bill, Ateneo and La Salle: of lemons and cowards: Retrieved from: lemons_and_cowards
(credits to the Pro-RH Facebook group)
Posted: May 27, 2011 (52 likes, 70 shares) Posted: May 18, 2011 (79 likes, 28 comments, 21 likes)
Posted: August 25, 2012; In response to the Sotto issue (655 likes, 115 comments, 361 shares)
Posted: August 18, 2012 (310 likes, 57 comments, 218 shares)
Posted: August 31, 2012 (comparing Gloria and Noynoy’s policies and the bishop’s reaction; 874 likes, 78 comments, 1,476 shares)
Posted: September 21, 2012 (205 likes, 11 comments, 75 shares)
Posted: October 15, 2012 (487 likes, 42 comments, 495 shares)
Posted November 26, 2012 (207 likes, 66 comments, 89 shares)
Posted: November 29, 2012 (243 likes, 13 comments, 128 shares)
Posted: December 2, 2012 (280 likes 101 comments, 288 shares).
Posted: December 3, 2012 (138 likes, 15 comments, 51 shares)
Posted: December 13, 2012 (247 likes, 93 comments, 166 shares)
Posted: December 13, 2012 after the voting on the second reading of the RH bill. (59 likes, 13 comments, 19 shares)
Posted: December 12, 2012 (128 likes, 9 comments, 20 shares)
Posted: December 13, 2012 (620 likes, 40 comments, 477 shares)
[ 13 ]. The debates on the amendments of the RH bill in the Senate commenced onNovember 19, 2012, in which several concepts such as the “safe and satisfying sex” and “conception” were deliberated upon
[ 14 ]
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