Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Are Politicians Their "Friends"?

I recently reconnected with a former colleague from Manila through Facebook. She invited me as a friend, I accept her as a friend, thus reaffirming our friendship, both online and off. I saw she had more than 300 friends on her list and I was curious if I would find some old friends that I wanted to be in touch with again. I did find old friends and some, namely, some politicians holding no less than national seats. This made me send her a quick message to ask: Are these senators actually your "friends"?

The Philippine political scene is apparently evolving fast. Senators and congressmen have jumped on the bandwagon of social networking, and can be found in three of the most popular sites in the Philippines - Friendster, Facebook and Multiply. A number of my Manila-based friends are "friends" with a range of colorful political characters, from the ambitious novice Senator Francis Escudero, the media-savvy Senator Richard Gordon, to the acerbic veteran Senator Joker Arroyo, whose profile is suspiciously too detailed to be the work of an 81-year-old legislator. Some senators are on Friendster, the most popular networking site in the Philippines, and popular among Internet users in the provinces.

So what does being "friends" with a politician mean? My journalist friend says sometimes she uses Facebook to contact these officials but the responses are usually not as helpful. One senator quickly responds to her questions but starts his answers with "This is off the record." Other senators reply too but, she says it is obvious that their aides are doing the replying for them.

As U.S. President Barack Obama has shown, being on social networking sites can be an effective political tool and other politicians know this all too well. And with the national elections due in May 2010, expect Facebook and Friendster to be the new campaign platforms.

1 comment:

Devin Stewart said...

Sheila, good blog post. I think friending a politcian helps get the message out from the political center to the public, as Obama has been doing with his friends and YouTube blasts. It also allows people to make a political statement on their FB or other site.

By the way, according to Wired, the word "Frolleague" means "A work colleague friended on a social networking site and thus granted access to personal information."


Do we need a new word? Frolitician maybe?