With almost two million followers on Twitter and over 850,000 followers on Instagram, actress Iza Calzado is conscious about how she uses her platform on social media.
Speaking before 70 youth leaders from all over the Philippines at the Think Before You Share Digital Youth Summit, organized by Facebook and education non-profit Mano Amiga Philippines early this month, she briefly mentioned that a “body love revolution” project was in the works.
What she did go into detail was the controversy stirred by the Imelda Marcos persona she went as during a national costume-themed party thrown by Tim Yap in January, and what she learned from it.
She recalled borrowing jewelry from a friend to go with her blue terno, when her friend suggested that she go as Imelda instead. Iza thought it was a great idea, and even looked up the former First Lady’s mannerisms on YouTube to make her character accurate.
“I loved it… I felt I was in character that evening… The smile, the panuelo, I had it down to pat. And as an actress, I felt it was an achievement,” Iza said. Her hair and makeup team took photos of her and she posted them on social media, brimming with happiness.
But the reception was not what she expected.
“A lot of people did not take it well. Because it was January, and yes, I totally forgot,” she said. It was just two months after the late dictator, former President Ferdinand Marcos, was buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, which drew protests from Filipinos who remembered the thousands of incidents of torture, enforced disappearances, summary executions, and killings that occurred during the strongman’s regime.
Iza said she had chosen to become “apolitical” at the time “because it was too much,” but admitted that she herself was among the people who did not “like” the burial.
“There was just so much hate with the post,” she said. It made her realize that she had to be sensitive to current events. “I learned a valuable lesson after that.”
She continued, “I was just this happy girl, sharing things. Now I’m more aware, definitely. But also, you cannot just keep stopping yourself. Otherwise, there’s no more freedom, and that is what this is all about, the right to express yourself.”
Iza said she uses social media to promote positivity, and part of it includes remaining apolitical.
“I didn’t want to be hated,” she explained.
She added, “I’m not… a negastar, (someone who) always complains on social media. I don’t use my social media in a negative way. I try not to. So that when also I need to express myself, a concern, it become for me, more valid to the people that follow me that, hey, it’s not like I’m always expressing my reklamo. ‘Cause sometimes you know, when you’re following someone who’s always saying this, this, that, always complaining about things, it becomes, they’re complaining about everything. Whereas somebody who never complains and complains once, you’ll pay attention… So I try to be more positive so that when the time comes that I actually speak out and voice an opinion, I feel that it becomes louder because I wasn’t voicing out so many other things.”
Iza was joined at the event by other personalities who use social media to promote their advocacies: Niccolo Cosme, founder of Project Headshot Clinic and The Red Whistle Project, where people can be educated about HIV and AIDS; Patch Dulay, founder of The Spark Project, where artists, entrepreneurs, and campaigners can get funding for their projects; and Sofia Cope, founder of Mad Muse, where users can see the importance of art and creativity in their lives.
Because fake news is rampant, Niccolo stressed the importance of verifying everything he posts. For example, lies had proliferated about HIV being found in Pepsi or a fruit. He and his team came up with educational materials to counter these.
At the same time, they try to be witty and engaging.
“If your post is very scientific, who’s gonna read it? The doctors?” Niccolo said, to the audience’s laughter.
He also talked about dealing with trolls.
“In social media, we’re hidden. We’re behind avatars and profile pictures… Sometimes nga eh, it’s not even their own profile pictures,” he said. “There is such a thing as soft words. So instead of saying, ‘No!’… go about the soft words. ‘Perhaps, maybe, I understand,’ ganyan… You acknowledge them.”
Iza piped in, “They just wanna be validated.”
“The more you feed them with energy, the more they will live. You don’t want them to live,” Niccolo continued, to more laughter. “But it’s interesting to be able to craft it intelligently. At the end of the day, they burn!”
For his part, Patch noted that authenticity is the way to go on social media.
“Our social media accounts… are extensions already of ourselves, so it has to be also you, and a responsible you. Because it’s no different from the real world, I believe. The digital space is also a space where we have to be human,” he said.