Eliezer Erick Eljan Embrado is the Founder/Creator/President of the Pilipino sa Kuwait, one of the most popular blogsites and Facebook pages among Filipinos in Kuwait as well as expats with over 300,000 followers. A native of Dipolog City in the Philippines,
Blogging – A Vital Tool For Social Change
Censorship A Major Challenge Facing Bloggers
SOCIAL media is growing at an explosive rate, with millions of people all over the world generating and sharing content on a scale barely imaginable a few years ago. This has resulted in massive participation with countless number of updates, opinions, news, comments and product reviews being constantly posted and discussed in social web sites such as Facebook, Digg, Instagram and Twitter, to name a few. This widespread generation and consumption of content has created an extremely competitive online environment where different types of content vie with each other for the scarce attention of the user community.
In spite of the seemingly chaotic fashion with which all these interactions take place, certain topics manage to attract aninordinate amount of attention, thus bubbling to the top in terms of popularity. Through their visibility, this popular topics contribute to the collective awareness of what is trending and at times can also affect the public agenda of the community, hence, the mushrooming of social media sites, Facebook accounts and blogsites that cater to specific audience or community.
Eliezer Erick Eljan Embrado, the Founder/Creator and President of the Pilipino sa Kuwait, one of the most popular portal sites for Filipinos in Kuwait with over 124,000 followers, in this interview, provides an overview on social media and blogging, social media trends, vital role of social media in the life of expatriates in Kuwait, SOS line for distressed workers, a tool and catalyst for change and the current challenges and issues being faced by bloggers in Kuwait and the future of blogging.
Question: When did you start blogging?
Answer: I started blogging in 2007 when I started working here in Kuwait. To ease my homesickness and while away time, I turned to blogging. It’s my form of relaxation. When you surf the Internet, you just go beyond which seems to be unreachable before with all the vast information on hand.
Q: What inspired you to blog?
A: Blogging paved the way for self-discovery. I was awed and inspired by the wealth of information on the cyberspace. It developed my eye to see the world at a better perspective, look for meaningful things and in the long run, I became a better thinker. Blogging has encapsulated my daily musings, wishful thinking and perspective as an expatriate in Kuwait. As days, weeks, months and years passed by, I woke up one day and saw thousands have been following my blogsite and the Facebook page that I have created. This inspired me more to develop my blog and Facebook page not only as a stress reliever but this time to launch an advocacy – to reach out to people and make a difference in their lives.
Q: When did you set up Pilipino sa Kuwait?
A: I set up Pilipino sa Kuwait or PSK on Oct 16, 2010. It just started as a Chatbox group on Facebook with around 45 members and all the administrators are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) like me. It’s more of an online forum where we get together and exchange views. From then on, I had to open it to the public as followers grew in number and today, we have around 124,000 members and still growing.
Q: What were your objectives when you set up Pilipino sa Kuwait on Facebook? How about the website?
A: When I created Pilipino sa Kuwait, it was more of some social reasons, to meet and interact with some friends on Facebook but when our group has seen that people have been visiting our page, sending messages, asking for information and pieces of advice then we had to sit down and we decided to shift to a more community-oriented page or I may say, we slowly developed this advocacy to help the expat community not only Filipinos. From then on, we carved our new mission and vision. Our mission is to strive to become one of the well-respected, non-profit, non-sectarian, non-political and non-partisan OFW community in the State of Kuwait. Our vision is a broad and collaborative community which looks up to providing inspiration, embraces cultural diversity, provides assistance to its members in case of emergency and promotes acceptance and camaraderie among its members and the entire OFW community.
That’s why we have this motto: We don’t know who we are until we do something. Maybe, some don’t know about our yearly project – the outreach programme and feeding programme for our distressed OFWs at the Filipino Workers Resource Centre at the Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO).
Q: You have mentioned that Pilipino sa Kuwait has over 124,000 followers now on Facebook and has become one of the most popular Facebook pages among expats, what do you think are the factors that contributed to the rising number of followers?
A: Never had I or my group imagined in 2010 that PSK will become this popular. We are deeply humbled by the increasing number of followers each day. Modesty aside, I guess my administrators and I must be doing something good for the expat and Filipino community. I’m very happy that PSK has become a very important portal of information especially for expats in Kuwait. With the increasing number of followers, our responsibility toward the community also increases and this inspires us to do more, work harder to put out more socially relevant stuff and be of service more to the people in the community.
Q: How many hits or visitors does your website have per day? Per week or per month?
A: The number of hits or visitors we get varies everyday but the monthly average is around 300,000 to 500,000 including those outside Kuwait, this means globally.
Q: How did Pilipino sa Kuwait become a tool of information for expats especially Filipinos in Kuwait?
A: Obviously, expat life in Kuwait goes well beyond shipping belongings and taking care of the law to be followed here in this country. Socialising with fellow Filipinos is an important facet of living abroad and can be a huge stepping stone in getting to know the Kuwaiti mentality and way of life. Pilipino sa Kuwait is a part of community, calling cities or many others home, bringing some latest happenings not only here in Kuwait but all over the other countries.We can use PSK to look for fellow Filipinos here in Kuwait. For example, if you’re looking for a job, wondering where to shop for Filipino needs, want to discuss some important and fun topics to entertain each Filipino expat. To become a part of PSK, our group is the best place to meet expats from the Philippines. On PSK, they can get competent answers to all expat-related questions: how to find a babysitter, looking for the apartment to live in ,where to get halo-halo in Kuwait City, where to find the Filipino delicacies which most Filipinos miss, etc. PSK has information on the nearest Filipino embassy and many other institutions. People can meet supportive and friendly Filipino expats on PSK or meet and mingle with fellow Filipinos in Kuwait through this group. Additionally, PSK is also the source of expat events and activities in Kuwait and especially Filipino activities with the support of the Philippine Embassy. Our meet-ups and activities offer many wonderful opportunities to mingle with expatriates hailing from the Philippines and other countries.
Q: How does your FB page or blogsite able to help distressed OFWs? Can you please give us some examples?
A: Let’s call it the “POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA.” There were a lot of instances wherein PSK has become instrumental in helping maltreated OFWs in Kuwait. Some of the victims themselves sent us messages or SOS for help. The moment we post the appeal for help and the photo that goes with it, chances are, it goes viral not only in Kuwait but across the world, moving people to action until it reaches the concerned authorities. More often than not, the distressed OFW who cried for help is rescued within 24 hours. That’s the power of social media but of course, you have to exercise due diligence and utmost prudence when posting such cases. Make sure that you verify its veracity.
Q: The Philippine embassy has considered Pilipino sa Kuwait as one of its partners in information dissemination. What can you say about this?
A: It’s our pleasure to be of service to everyone and we are very happy and honoured that the Philippine Embassy has acknowledged our vital role and contribution in disseminating information to the Filipino and expat communities. We are also thankful that the Philippine Embassy under the leadership of Charge d’ Affaires Raul Dado has been utilising the social media extensively and we are always here to support them in their programmes for OFWs and their other related activities.
Q: As a blogger, what are the challenges that you have to face?
A: A blogger has a lot of challenges to face. Blogging per se is more of a 24/7 thing, because everything gets updated on the cyberspace in a split of a second so if you’re a blogger, you need focus and time. I have a full time job at an office here and I can’t be online all the time, updating my blog or Facebook page every second or every minute so lack of time is one of the challenges that I have to hurdle. Second, what do I blog about? What shall I post? Unlike personal blogs, you can just post what you’re feeling, what’s for lunch or where you’re going but for PSK, everyone is waiting for whatever you will be posting on the page. It has to be relevant and not just mushy stuff or self-serving or narcissistic posts. Third, I have to maintain the traffic on my blog or page, this means, maintaining the high number of hits or visits, hence, you have to think of good strategies to promote your blog or page more. Another one, just like all bloggers based in Kuwait, one of the challenges that we have to face is censorship and that’s self-explanatory.
Q: How do you overcome these challenges?
A: Time management is very important. You have to structure your time on the Net better. Be decisive and of course, you have to keep yourself abreast of what’s happening on the cyberspace. With regard to censorship, the only answer to that is self-censorship and stay out of trouble.
Q: Can bloggers also earn from their blogs? How?
A: We earn by monetising the sites with the help of Google and advertisements. It may take time before a blog or page reaches this stage but the possibility of earning is there. There’s a great potential and it’s a bit complicated. If you earn, you also need it for the maintenance of your site. More and more bloggers are finding that blogging is a profitable medium. It is possible to make money by blogging but it takes time and a lot of hard work — and it doesn’t happen for everyone! That’s being realistic but with hardwork and perseverance, nothing is impossible.
Q: How do you maintain your blog so people will keep on visiting it?
A: Focus on what really your followers and subscribers need, analyse and maintain your content. Update, update, and update it as needed. On my blogs, people visit them to look for jobs, latest news on OFWs and other important stuff so you need to have a wide array of sources.
Q: What are the tips that you can give to would-be bloggers?
A: I can enumerate a lot of technical tips for would-be bloggers which I know they can easily search on the Internet. So the tips that I want to share here are simple and easy to follow. First, love what you do. Second, make it your passion and enjoy what you are doing. Third, stay focused and last, follow the golden rule by heart: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” You don’t blog to trash or bully anyone. Let’s try to make a difference, one step at a time, one day at a time and make this world a wonderful place to live in.
Q: How powerful is the social media in influencing people’s lives?
A: Nowadays, social media play like a big part in our life. When your friends don’t reply to your text message, you can greet them on Facebook or tweet them. When you want to listen to music or watch a music video of your favorite singer – you go to YouTube. When you wake up in the morning, you don’t have to walk outside to get the newspaper, just take your phone and scroll on your Twitter timeline then you’ll get the latest information here and abroad. Blog and Forum are also types of social media because they allow you to share “what you think” about articles, pictures, videos and so on. Social media allow users not only to share about their profession, major of study, works and company, addresses, political views and religion, but also allow them to find a job and allow the company to find the employees. Everything looks easy and life is comfy with social media. Whether we like it or not, social media have become a part of our daily life and paved the way to connect people everywhere.
Q: How’s the blog environment in Kuwait?
A: As what I’ve mentioned earlier, there has been an increasing number of bloggers in Kuwait but we all know that one of the major challenges that we have to face especially expat bloggers like me is censorship. You can’t just go all out. You have to be truly discerning of what you posts on your blog or page or else you would end up behind bars or back to your home country in a nick of time. The key word to address this issue is SELF-CENSORSHIP. Learn the art of self-censorship and that will save you from trouble a great deal.
Q: How important is netiquette for bloggers?
A: Netiquette is very important to bloggers. We have to abide by the basic etiquette online or better known as netiquette and I would like to share with you the following.
- Do not do unto others… what you do not want others to do unto to you. Basically, you don’t start a blog to trash anyone else, to focus on weak stuff. You are responsible for whatever you say. Of course you should make inquiries, criticize, and disagree — just don’t make a great hustle out of it.
- No flaming. Do not send hate messages, don’t vent online. There’s always an “unfollow” button, or a private messaging system.
- Don’t feed the trolls. Those that do not abide to rule number 2, do not require your attention at all. They may call you a wildling, but you know you are not one, and thus, you refrain from action. The standard response is to starve the troll. A troll is someone who engages in discussions purely to provoke or annoy.
- Respond to valid comments. Well argument, not necessarily well intentioned. It is important to keep the discussion going and to include both well articulated criticism with praises.
- Don’t be tedious with responses. Instead of picking apart the comment, address it in parts or as a whole. Otherwise, you are proving that you are ready to take away much from productive work.
Q: What are your future plans for Pilipino sa Kuwait?
A: We hope the PSK community keeps on growing as more and more people abroad are becoming part of it. I don’t own PSK but I want all the netizens out there to know that you are a part of PSK. I want them to feel that once they become a member of PSK then the PSK ownership is passed on to them. We hope to do more relevant projects for distressed OFWs as well as other expat communities later on. We will continue to be a partner of the Philippine Embassy and other institutions in information dissemination. We want to maximize our blog and page to reach out to more people, be a catalyst for change and make their lives better.
Source : Arabtimes