Why I’m giving up Facebook and going back to newspapers

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If you were blindsided by the results of the US elections, it’s probably because you relied on your social media news feed for your news. 

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I woke up this morning fully expecting to watch the election returns from the United States show a strong mandate for Hillary Clinton. But if you were like me, by midday (Asia time / +8 GMT) you had the biggest shock of your life as you realized that Donald Trump was pulling away to victory.

This election was a hard reminder that we all live in our respective social media echo chambers. I never seriously considered the possibility that Trump might actually win because of what I had seen and read daily in my Facebook news feed in the months leading up to the election. I read with glee the news coverage and polls describing Clinton’s gains. I relished the anti-Trump discourse of my friends in the US. I laughed at the nightly endless stream of comedians making jokes as if Trump had already lost. But the truth was, just like for so many of us who were incredulous at the prospect of a Trump win, the widespread support that Trump enjoyed was mostly invisible to me.

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This was me accepting the bitter truth of a Trump victory

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to demonize Facebook nor blame them for my own myopia. Facebook algorithms are simply doing what they were designed to do: display content on your news feed you like or are inclined to interact with while hiding the stuff you are less likely to enjoy. Facebook tells me I have over a thousand “friends” but when I look closely, my news feed is populated by the same two dozen or so people.

The truth is, I’ve been lazy. Facebook has replaced the role that the front page of the daily newspaper or the evening news program used to play. I’ve relied on my daily Facebook habit to keep me informed to the point where my news feed has been my — apparently extremely narrow — window to the world. I realize that mistake and here’s what I’m doing about it:

First, I’m going to start purging news sites from my Facebook feed. (Click on that downward arrow on the upper right of a post and “Hide all from [news source].”) Facebook’s algorithm will no longer curate the news for me.

Second, I’m going back to reading newspapers. (Or, more precisely, news websites.) I’m bookmarking several news sites that I aim to check daily. The selection is designed to offer as broad a view as possible, including sources whose political views I don’t agree with: not only CNN but also Fox News, not only the New York Times but also the Drudge Report.

Finally, I’m actually stepping away from Facebook for a while. I’ve removed its app from my smartphone. I’m going to stop making it my the first stop. Facebook is still the best way of keeping track of my friends and relatives from all over the world so I won’t be abandoning it completely but I will be drastically reducing the amount of time I spend with it.

That might be disappointing for my friends who tell me they enjoy the media and opinions I regularly share (and to paraphrase the President-elect of the United States of America, I don’t mean this in a braggadocious way) but if you want to know what’s on my mind…you’ll just have to find out in person.

Music from my Bedroom, 1990-1994

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A music playlist is a time machine.
I moved into the upstairs bedroom at our house in Berlin Avenue, Quezon City. My career in advertising and marketing was just beginning. I bought my first personal stereo system, which meant for the first time I could listen to my own cassettes and CDs in the privacy of my own bedroom. The future was bright and beckoned with possibility.
This is the music I was into at the time. What do these songs remind you of?
#NowPlaying “Berlin Avenue: Music from my Bedroom circa 1990-1994” on #Spotify

Why I stood in line for 6 hours to pay respects to Lee Kuan Yew

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Singapore flies at half-mast at Parliament House

In the car just minutes before arriving at Suntec City, my wife and I looked at each other. “This is it. No turning back.” The radio was already warning people since 7am that the waiting time to pay respects to Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, would be at least seven hours. But we were determined.

We joined the line from outside Raffles City. Throughout that morning the line would crawl, speed up and slow down again as we approached the waiting pens at the Padang, where we were then herded together into smaller groups before being asked to join the line again. Spirits were high throughout, despite the heat and humidity. Police managed the flow of the crowd while young men in military uniform handed out free water, isotonic drinks and umbrellas and occasionally making the crowd laugh with jokes.

The entire process took about six hours. Afterwards a colleague of mine told me, “I’m surprised you would do that.” Perhaps she knew about my aversion to queues. Perhaps she knew I wasn’t born in Singapore and such a display of loyalty was expected only of someone who was native born, who grew up with Mr Lee as a persistent national figure.

I was born and raised in the Philippines, lived briefly in Hong Kong and moved to Singapore in 1997. In 2001 I was offered citizenship and became a Singapore citizen in 2002. So why would a Filipino stand in the sun for almost six hours to pay respects to Singapore’s founding father?

How could I not? It was Mr Lee’s vision that gave rise to an economic system where a young man from the Philippines could be welcomed into a multi-cultural society, find career opportunities and pursue the career he desired. I came to pay my respects because Lee Kuan Yew did more to elevate my quality of life and secure a brighter future for myself and my family than any other leader or public servant from the land of my birth. I came because I will always be grateful for the opportunity to live in Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore.

RIP Adam “MCA” Yauch: a tribute

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I read the news this morning that Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys passed away after battling cancer since 2009. He was 47.

In tribute, I present one of the greatest concert films of all time: Awesome; I F**king Shot That! The film was directed by Yauch (under the name Nathaniel Hornblower) back in 2004 and shot by more than 50 Beastie Boys fans who were provided handycams. It is the pinnacle of User-Generated-Content, filmed before “UGC” became an industry buzzword.

RIP Adam Yauch (1964-2012), a true artist and pioneer.

Read more about the life of Adam Yauch here and here.

You can buy the DVD of Awesome; I F**king Shot That! here.

Jenny & Miguel

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Jenny & Miguel by phatfreemiguel
Jenny & Miguel, a photo by phatfreemiguel on Flickr.

Jenny and I got married in Hanoi, Vietnam on 20 January 2012 in front of about 70 of our closest family and friends.

Do you really need another Christmas hamper?

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​’Tis the season to be jolly. ‘Tis also the season marketing professionals in Singapore receive baskets of groceries, snacks and other goodies they don’t really need from various agencies, vendors and media partners.

This year, I have asked our partners to instead make a donation to a charity of our choice. Think about it. Doesn’t that make much more sense than receiving yet another Christmas hamper?

Green Might

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Before I became a vegetarian, the excuses I used most often for not eating more vegetables included: “I won’t get enough protein if I don’t eat meat” and “I won’t have as much energy if I don’t eat meat.” I hear these same reasons today from other people who — although they acknowledge that eating vegetables is good for you — are unwilling make plant products (as opposed to animal products) the foundation of their diet.

Here’s a video by one of the guys who finally inspired me to make the switch to a vegetarian diet, a Vegan athlete who calls himself da1sinister. The next time you tell yourself “I’ll get weaker” or some similar nonsense, think of this guy.