Social Challenge: Impressing Strangers

For the past three weeks, I have been burning the midnight oil to finish assignments for my social psychology course on Coursera. It was my first time to be in a MOOC (pronounced as mook), a massively open online course.

Having been a big fan of psychology, I decided to enroll in this class to understand why we behave the way we do in the context of us being individuals in different social situations.

What you’re about to read is one of the first assignments, a social challenge, which asks students to try to impress strangers by writing a unique profile of themselves.  I took me more than 10 revisions to finally get to what I think was the best version. So let me share it with you and see if I can still replicate that effect. I also had the benefit of great feedback from my peers. This was a peer-graded assignment, thus it was both indeed a social challenge.


IMG_3000I had an aversion to selling myself to strangers. My ex-boss once told me that I sucked at selling myself in resumes. If I had a choice, I would rather be in the background than be in the limelight. But that was before I became a professional and a journalist.

In this day and age of social media, we are continously “selling ourselves” to a crowd of strangers. I see a lot of cognitive dissonance in what we tell people about ourselves, and what we do on social networks like Facebook. Some recent studies have shown that Facebook has led to some depression among people because we tend to paint a very positive picture about ourselves. However, we rant a lot on Facebook.

Creating an SPN profile came naturally for me, though. I have been painting a public persona in social networks. It’s my job to create a positive impression because that makes us credible. Credibility is an important currency for professionals like me. Without credibility, our work is for naught. We learned that first impressions last–as in the thin-slice theory.

I had at least 7 revisions, the last was a major one due to a feedback from a peer who said I was giving off a “negative impression.”

This brings me to our lessons in self-perception. I’ve just been through a rough year, and somehow it reflects on how I see myself lately. One may call it self-pity. But I feel that creating the SPN profile to a different “crowd” is a challenge because I know that the objective is to make a positive impression. But being told that I was giving off a negative impression of myself pushed me to go back to my profile and overhaul it. I would have stuck with what I have, but thinking that “credibility” is important in this network, I went through it again, and re-wrote my profile.

There’s a lot of persuasion required in “selling yourself” to a group of strangers. My profile initially just gave straight facts about me–the central route to persuasion–but it was clear that peripheral persuasion worked best, as I chose to tell a story about myself, in bullet-points fashion. I used words to paint a picture of me in different situations–not necessarily relevant to who I am. I also used humor to attract people to read further. As Myer wrote in the chapter about the two routes of persuasion, “Messages also become more persuasive through association with good feelings.” Which is why humor writers are often the best communicators. They’re able to sneak in truths, painful ones for that matter, within jokes.

I also used casual language to make a better impression to people who share my values, and culture too.

Reciprocity also seem to work in persuading people to find your profile impressive. Giving them good feedback initially, then asking them to rate your profile gives a better chance that they will say good things about it. So the chances of your SPN getting better ratings is likely dependent on your ability to give them positive or constructive feedback. In my case, a peer told me exactly what was wrong with my profile. That prompted me to revise. Then I got feedback again that the re-work did the trick. So I also paid her a compliment. And so from that, I’ve gained one friend.

Finally, I was able to get more positive feedback through a Facebook group composed of people who are more open to share the burden with other students who want to learn. Having established myself as an active member of this group, I was able to get feedback that are positive and constructive because early one I gave some personal background about myself.

All in all, I was able to create a positive impression through SPN because I used standard persuasion to get people to like my profile. They include peripheral persuasion, reciprocity and liking. These are elements that I also believe works best in social networks like Facebook.

You can read this unique resume on my social psychology network profile.

#maringPH: Floods paralyzed Metro Manila

Why #gilaspilipinas win vs. Korea made Pinoys cry

If you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’ll never appreciate the emotional intensity of the last games that led the Philippine national team Gilas to win against Korea.

For the first time in many many years, we’re back in our top form, and will now have a chance at World cup of basketball, FIBA games in Spain. As the sports commentators say and coach Chot Reyes stressed, our big heart led us to win against a strong team.

I got teary-eyed when Reyes finally sat down and wept. He was overwhelmed with emotion, as he later admitted. All the emotions, the hard work, and perhaps the sleepless nights of thinking how to get to where they are now, just came crushing down.

Tonight, the country cries because it has once again proven our love for basketball, and our hunger for victory over bigger, faster, and stronger rivals. This same feeling happened when Pacquiao knocked out his opponents. This same feeling we had when the Philippine Azkals won. We’ve been waiting for our heroes–it’s been a while since we’ve had one.

Congrats #gilaspilipinas!

Why hunting for a high-paying job will frustrate you

Saw this story on GMA News and one thing struck me: Fresh graduates expecting to land high-paying jobs. There is nothing wrong with that. But if this is how our younger generation is being molded, I feel frustrated (to put it mildly).

I may sound old, but when my generation left College, we went through a lot of trouble landing a job –not necessarily a high-paying one. As the executive in that website that was quoted by this report said, it’s not about the money. It’s about the learning, the experience and the career you want to build. Another thing: jumping from one job to another to get a bump in salary is also a bad strategy for young graduates. I use to hire people for jobs in my previous work in Yahoo! When I see a person staying for only a few months or a year in a job, that’s a red flag.

Incidentally, I’m now reading a book called “Startup Nation,” which digs deep into a nation that has produced the most number of new businesses for a country in the world. That country is Israel. Amid constant threats from its Arab neighbors, this country has developed a hub of highly motivated, assertive, and innovative youth. Add to this is their military training that includes tough educational requirements. Their youth aim to enter the military elite. The result: By age 23, most Israelis have gained experience, exposure, mental toughness, and maturity to make it in the real world. Most of them graduate to becoming successful entrepreneurs.

Now, back to the report. I’ve had this conversation with some friends this week, which revolved around today’s youth. As an educator, I feel that I have this duty to mold them to become better students of life –not just in journalism. But changing the behavior is a daunting task if this generation is growing in an environment of too much information (excessive, sometimes), less introspection, and little patience.

Let’s take the Facebook example. Kids today are immersed in so much information on social networks. Once they like something, they make it known to everyone. What is troubling (and this may go down the philosophical lane) is that how many of these young kids do stop and think whenever they share quotes, or like pages or a status messages on Facebook. Very few (based on anecdotal evidence). Also, in the process of doing this, their opinions are formed around these fleeting information that often lacks context or history. In short, they like something because their friends did. That’s enough “context” to dictate the response of most of our youth.

I have observed this phenomenon as I watch my kids and other people’s kids. They re-post photos or memes that use language they usually don’t understand or even speak. It is frustrating but that’s how it works these days. Often times, I remind my kids to never like anything or re-post content that doesn’t represent them–or at least tells the world who they are.

Why am I concerned? Kids expecting high-paying jobs after graduation is a symptom of the values that they have these days. As communicators, teachers, and journalists–even entrepreneurs alike–the biggest lesson that we should be teaching our youth is patience and purpose. With that comes hard work and a clear understanding of who they want to be–and what purpose should they serve as they grow up. Of course, failures in life will come. If they’re values are not solid, we will see a lot of frustrated youth looking for quick solutions. Again, I am not here to preach. I just want to my kids to have a better future where values like honesty, honor, integrity, patience, and hard-work are still common.

Don’t you?

Group seeks “serial” entrepreneurs in the Philippines #startup

Pollenizer @ Kickstart is looking for Philippine-based startups focused on solving specific problems.

The announcement was made on Pollenizer’s website:

Pollenizer @ Kickstart provides our team with a well researched problem or idea space, a built-in funding runway, and a structured incubation process. Team members could be corporate employees looking for more autonomy and freedom to experiment, entrepreneurs looking to plug into a support system and pre-defined project, or people who have moved between both environments.

The group says qualified startup companies will get equity stake, salary for monthly expenses and mentorship from Kickstart Ventures and Pollenizer.

Funding? At least one year’s worth of capital, according to the site. After this period, the startup company will need to chase for more funding with support from the group. These startups will operate in the Philippines.

The group is looking at funding startups engaged in the following “problem areas:”

1. Real Estate Listings – Real Estate has been a Web 1.0 gold mine in Southeast Asia, with Property Guru netting $60M in funding while dominating in SG and ID and iProperty getting listed while serving the Malaysian market. Philippines still lacks a dominant player. Why do current Ph sites fall short and how can we fix it?

2. Vertical E Commerce – The past two years have seen an explosion in e-commerce activity across Southeast Asia, thanks in large part to Rocket Internet’s well-funded and concerted effort at customer education cum acquisition. With the customer base growing, markets seemed poised for new players focusing on specific verticals such as diapers, groceries, eyeglasses and so on. Which vertical is poised to take off in PH and why?

3. Horizontal E Commerce – The infrastructure supporting e-commerce across Southeast Asia is underdeveloped and ill suited to support the coming e-commerce explosion. The time could be ripe for new entrants in logistics, warehousing and other key services. Or perhaps something more innovative like Uber for motorbike delivery or Southeast Asian buffer boxes?

4. Remittance – OFWs send billions back to the Philippines every year, much of it flowing through antiquated networks with high friction and service charges. Internal remittances are an even bigger market as money flows from the large cities out. Mobile technology promises a better user experience and lower costs but it must overcome many challenges around getting cash into the system and ensuring user access across a huge array of devices. Is there a space for a mobile remittance solution that solve these problems and can gain mass adoption?

5. Labor Cost Arbitrage – Sites like, Elance, and 99 Designs have established a robust market for labor cost arbitrage, with demand sourced in high income markets and supply provided in countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. We wonder if there’s an opportunity for a local player in this domain? What new approaches or niches could be established to increase adoption in this fast growing sector?

6. OFW Placement – In a reverse mirror of the remittance market, the millions of Filipinos who work abroad are mostly placed via antiquated methods that privilege services over technology and extract fees that can border on exploitative. Can web and mobile technology be used to disintermediate the agencies, connecting potential employers and employees directly?

7. Education –  Educational technology is a booming sector across the world, but adoption in developing markets has been slow due to lack of local solutions and issues around device and data access. Which educational areas are ripe for disruption in the Philippines? Is it supplemental tutoring for high income families, literacy programs for young children delivered through schools, marketplaces for educational service providers, online tutoring for the US market? Or something else entirely?

8. Health Care – Technology is changing the face of health care around the world. Developing markets offer up innumerable opportunities in this space, from portals facilitating medical tourism to sites to connect patients and doctors to Yelp-style interfaces for rating health provider performance. Which solution is worth pursuing in the near term?