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The growing influence of social media on an expanding audience across the

globe raises serious concerns on security and privacy, productivity and viability of
real social connections.
The dawn of twenty-first century, following breakthroughs in Internet technology,
saw an explosion of new media platforms. While not entirely new, Internet-based
social networks or simply social media has become an important venue for
creation and exchange of knowledge, self-expression, social interaction,
marketing of services, products and causes, popular empowerment, political
debate and mobilization.
In the Philippines, according to the Demographic Research and Development
Foundation and the University of the Philippines Population Institute, the most
prolific users of social media are the youth, aged 15-24 years. They spend six
hours a week on average online; others spend 35 hours in the Internet. Indeed,
Filipinos are among the worlds biggest social media audiences. A 2014 global
study called Wave7 even tagged the Philippines as the worlds social media
capital.
Celebrities like Justin Beiber and Charice Pempengco owe to social media their
success. They began as online singing sensations, whose videos went viral in
Youtube and Facebook, until mainstream media noticed them and launched their
international careers in show business. Not only does social media build careers,
it also (re)build nations.
The success of Million People March in August 2013, a massive popular
demonstration against alleged corruption of lump-sum funds under congressional
discretion called pork barrel, has been widely credited to social media. Earlier,
the Arab Spring in the Middle East, a series of popular uprisings against despotic,
autocratic regimes, has also been associated with mobilization through social
media channels.
While advocates and supporters herald the positive impact of social media, critics
have warned of its adverse effects. Unauthorized use of users private
information by web developers has generated protests as it infringes on the right
to privacy and could lead to discrimination in seeking employment and insurance.
Critics have also pointed out the vulnerability of social media users to sexual
predators, cyberbullying and online harassment, which could lead to low selfesteem, negative outlook and disposition, and erratic behavior. Some cases of
suicide among teens have been traced back to cyberbullying.
Detractors argue to some valid extent that while social media facilitates easier
communication and connectivity among friends and families, the social networks
we build online remain superficial. They question the sustainability of online
social networks.

Evolving anthropological scholarship, however, now goes beyond embodied or


face-to-face communities to understand emerging social configurations in
modern society. This field of research focusing on Internet communities is called
cyber anthropology.
Nonetheless, despite anthropological scholarship on many Internet-related
issues, anthropological inquiry on social media and its impact on individual
behavior and national and global outcomes remains scarce. Without a deep and
broad understanding of social media and its impact on the lives of its users, we
are bound to remain the curious fools and amused spectators of its seemingly
magical power. And without that understanding, we stand unprepared to the
dangers of this potential monster; the sheep we love may just be the wolf bidding
its time, ready to launch its fatal attack.