Social workers ponder on social media  



Alex Eduque

Alex Eduque

In my article last week, I shared snippets from a speech that I gave at the annual regional conference of the Philippine Association for Social Workers on social media and what I feel its role is in promoting positive human relationships. My heart was full with the warmth and enthusiasm that the audience showed, and I am glad that I was given the time to open up the floor for questions. I always feel that this does not only enable interaction between the speaker and the crowd, it addresses specific curiosities that a speaker may otherwise only glance upon, or not even talk about. Suffice to say, the questions thrown at me by this particular audience were not only thought provoking; I feel they were very relevant to the wider community. Allow me to share two of them, as well as my answers with all of you:

“I am one of the few, or maybe the only one in this room without any type of social media account. My co-workers don’t believe me, and people I meet are always in shock. I have a cellphone which I use only to call and text, and I keep myself updated by reading the newspapers and watching the news on TV. Does this make me irrelevant?” – First and foremost, social media, for the most part (unless mandated by work) is a choice, and not a must. Do not feel bad because of what other people think of your decision to keep away from the cyber world. This definitely does not make you irrelevant – the fact that you keep up with the news through old habits makes you current – perhaps even more than some of us who guiltily rely on social media to deliver information. Thank you for being a shining example. You prove to us that it is possible to live a happy, purposeful, and fulfilled life without social media, and you are a reminder to us all that staying away from everyone else’s lives that they choose to share online definitely does not mean disconnecting from the rest of the world. Perhaps, it may mean quality time and connecting more with those who are near and dear to you.

“Before social media, we used to pray before we start a meal. Now, we style the food and take pictures before we eat. What advice can you give us on how we can make sure that today’s generation carries on with traditions of the past even with the heavy influence of social media in our daily lives?” – To be honest, the drastic change social media has posed on our lives and its heavy influence does scare me at times. It makes me wonder what kind of world our children, and our children’s children will grow up in. That being said, I am a firm believer that morals and values, though taught in school, are one hundred percent shaped and reinforced at home. It is what is seen, spoken, and heard at home that is habit forming, and will be emulated strongest. Children will always follow in the footsteps of their parents, or those who raise them. The environment, actions, and mannerisms we grow up around undoubtedly create the backbone of who we become – how we act towards others – and the only way to ensure that children carry on with age-old traditions is to make sure that we, as their elders, do not stop practicing these very norms. Knowing that these practices are not as conventional as they once were, we must make the conscious and exert more effort in making sure that we instill these values in our children’s very core so that they grow-up practicing it even in our absence.

What I continuously emphasized, and the point I was hoping to make to everyone is that social media is greater than no one, and that its influence and impact is heavily dependent on us, users, and what we choose to make of it. Social media is a tool – a privilege, if you will, that we must optimize and know how to use responsibly. Only when we control social media (versus allowing it to control us) can we take a first step in making sure it promotes positive relationships. But what we must never forget is that nothing can replace the value physical meetings place on cementing valuable relationships, camaraderie, and true friendships.