“Every time I hear we shouldn’t build social media archives like #Ferguson, I think abt [about] events in the black history for which we have no records (Jules, 2015).”

A tweet from an archivist, Bergis Jules, which truly exemplifies his advocacy regarding the need to develop preservation models to store the records of protests posted in social media. In his article he suggests that the development of cellphones and various social media platforms revolutionized the way we express our ideas freely. People share videos, personal testimonies, and other remembrances that led into a deeper and longer trail of documentation that is readily accessible. In the same sense it provides an avenue for activist groups and communities to reach more individuals by sharing monumental experiences of battles and triumphs. This is in fact proven by the African-American community when they used Twitter as a medium of outcry to stop racism and police violence in relation with the Ferguson incident where African-American Michael Brown was killed by a white police officer even he is unarmed.

With the knowledge of what the social media platform brought us and the opportunity it gives for those who fight for their rights and beliefs, what is the implication of preserving such posts? What is its difference with archiving historical narratives that are considered primary sources which then are turned into textbooks and research materials?

The truth is, we lack primary sources and with the advent of social media it is possible to fill the gaps. Jules (2015) discussed how limited the primary sources are when he tried to search for documented experiences of mobilizations during the 1960s to 1970s related to issues of racism and police violence. All he could find are newspaper and police reports. This is where the problem kicks in. These records are filtered and made to serve the purpose of the respective institutions. It is the same problem we face in our country as the citizens before us somehow failed to expose the truth about the Marcos regime and martial law itself which created apologists, blind followers, and historical revisionists. Many of us knew martial law, knew the Marcoses, knew the Aquinos, but we never knew the hardships of the Filipino people during that time. Recently, in the peak of the campaign period for the 2016 national elections, film critic Philbert Dy created a spark in Twitter when he created the hashtag #RPNonFiction that encouraged Filipinos to post 140-character stories, upload files, and share links related to the martial law period in the country as his way of calling the Filipino people to prevent another Marcos from getting the vice-presidential seat. At present, we could see compilations of evidences why former President Marcos should not be buried at the Hero’s Cemetery through #NeverForget #MarcosNotAHero hashtags on Facebook. This is where I see the hope that we could fill the gaps and in return tell the tales needed to be told to the future generation.

But later on these posts will be buried in our Facebook walls and be gone in our Twitter dashboards. Are we going to let this evidences and collective memory be of waste once more? That is why there is a need to come up with guidelines and concrete policies in archiving social media posts.

In the end, we should always remember that the past is fluid and it is not static. Moments and experiences are ephemeral. Maybe this is the reason why we use social media because somehow it keeps some parts of the memory and clearly this is the reason why we archive because we see something has an enduring value. Every fight for equality, for justice, and for our welfare, regardless of the medium has an enduring value that must never be forgotten. Truly, archivists hold a great responsibility to preserve these traces and provide access as radical agents.

 

References:

Jules, B. [BergisJules]. (2015, July 18). Every time I hear we shouldn’t build social media archives like #Ferguson, I think abt events in the black history for which we have no records [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/on-archivy/preserving-social-media-records-of-activism-26e0f1751869#.qz8vayipa

Jules, B. (2015, November 25). Preserving social media records of activism [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://medium.com/on-archivy/preserving-social-media-records-of-activism-26e0f1751869#.qz8vayipa

Rappler social media team. (2016, May 12). #RPNonFiction: Twitter users recall martial law in 140 characters or less. Rappler. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/technology/social-media/132807-rpnonfiction-twitter-martial-law