How the digital era has changed the lives of Pinoys

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Award-winning newscaster Mitzi Borromeo is the host of "DigiPinoy," CNN Philippines’ first web series, which explores how technological innovations such as apps and on-demand content has affected the way Filipinos live. Photo by JL JAVIER

Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Majority of Filipinos are still glued to their T.V. sets, consuming news, telenovelas, and other kinds of shows. But that might be changing soon.

According to a recent Nielsen Global Video-on-Demand (VOD) Survey, 81 percent of Filipino respondents subscribe to an online video service provider and 85 percent said they prefer to watch VOD during their most convenient times.

The disruption on broadcast television is slowly trickling down from the U.S. to the Philippines. People are consuming more on-demand content, watching their favorite T.V. shows whenever they have free time instead of the usual channel schedule.

“Nowadays, T.V. content viewing doesn’t just happen on T.V. screens,” says CNN Philippines’ Mitzi Borromeo, the host of the news channel’s first digital show, “DigiPinoy.” People consume on-demand content on mobile phones, tablets, or other devices, and they demand more personalized experiences.

It makes sense that a news network like CNN Philippines is now venturing into the realm of online shows, and beginning with a show that explores how Filipinos are affected by the onslaught of digital technology.

“DigiPinoy seeks to understand what we as a society have become in the digital age,” says Borromeo, who also hosts CNN Philippines shows such as “Profiles.” “For instance, in the way we communicate and express ourselves, in our relationships with family and friends, in our love lives, in the way we learn, do business, and travel.”

The first DigiPinoy episode explores how apps and dating websites have affected the behavior of Pinoys in getting and maintaining relationships.

“The series will be made up of various themes — the first theme is love in the digital age — around which the stories and experiences of everyday Filipinos revolve to illustrate how the digital age has influenced a particular aspect or theme of our lives,” she adds. “The series also features experts to help us make sense of human behavior.”

CNN Philippines Life recently talked to Borromeo, coming from the launch of the series’ pilot episode, to discuss online behavior, the gifts of technology, and the dark side of these innovations. Below are edited excerpts from the interview.

Undoubtedly, social media is where Filipinos thrive these days. What do you think that says about us as a nation?

This is a reflection of the Filipino people’s sociable and friendly spirit. We love making connections, and we’ll jump at any opportunity to do so. We are also such emotional, expressive, and curious people. Perhaps this is why Pinoys thrive on social media — they provide platforms for self-expression while making connections at the same time. Give the Pinoy a microphone, and [they] belt out a tune. That’s what social media is to the Pinoy: with the proliferation of apps and other digital tools, we have more avenues to be seen and heard. There’s also the Pinoy appetite for tsismis — social media provides easy channels to feed curiosity and voyeurism where one can be in the know by lurking on social media and seeing the goings on through people’s posts.

What are some important insights you’ve learned while working on these stories?

We’ve only covered one theme so far — love in the digital age, a series entitled “Love Bytes.” Given the more open and liberal society we live in, I was surprised to find out that many people did not want to admit publicly (on camera) that they use dating apps, or met their partners through the internet or dating apps. Many expressed fear of “coming out” (for those using Grindr) and being found out by family, who are still very traditional, or even getting into trouble with their employers. I didn’t realize that there’s a big stigma attached to online dating in the Philippines.

Another thing, despite dependence on digital tools to find or sustain love, it’s refreshing to discover that digital natives — at least the ones we interviewed — still prefer actual presence, quality face-to-face time with their partners, put away smartphones and digital distraction when with their partners, and that they have not become slaves to technology.

On the other end of the spectrum, what “analog” or pre-internet technology do you miss the most? The internet has strongly fueled nostalgia as well, with digital technology giving rise to the importance of old-world innovations such as film in cinema and vinyl records.

Vinyl and cassette tapes. I used to make mix tapes for friends, and received a lot from friends (and crushes) too. I also miss taking pictures using film, and photo prints.

When it comes to reading, I’m a lover of the actual printed book, not tablets or e-books. Nothing beats the feel, smell, the experience of holding an actual book and making notes or marks on it.

There’s also a dark side to technology, such as hacking, invasion of privacy, and cyberbullying. Will this be discussed in the coming episodes?

Yes. We skim the surface in our first series on love, looking at how people have been fooled or scammed through dating apps, and the stigma associated with online dating.

DigiPinoy will definitely explore the dark side of technology as it’s part of the evolving digital culture that we are still grappling with.

For instance, digital communications allows people oceans apart to engage with each other seamlessly, businesses can operate at a scale previously unknown, thanks to a burgeoning consumer electronics industry. But not all aspects of this industry are positive. It’s important to recognize and be aware of the dangers of information technology.

In tackling themes like travel, education, and online businesses for instance, DigiPinoy will discuss the proliferation of scams, false information, hacking, and invasion of privacy. We’ll also look into social media, technology, or gaming addiction and its real life consequences.

Technology is changing us in many ways. The mental health field continues to adapt and develop its understanding to meet the needs of our changing society. And DigiPinoy aims to contribute to understanding such phenomena, and hopefully contribute solutions to the problems brought on by human misappropriation of technology.


New episodes of "DigiPinoy" debut every Monday, 7:30 p.m. at the CNN Philippines website, Facebook, and Twitter.