Miguel Escobar’s article entitled “Filipino Twitter Shows Our Children Being Sexualized and Sold” (Esquire Magazine, 24 August 2018) raised a harrowing issue on child pornography on Twitter. While it was a good read which needs to be seriously addressed by the (concerned) authorities, what caught my attention was the term “alterverse” or “alter” for short. Escobar defined it as a “loosely organized Filipino Twitter community of anonymous men and women who engage in sexual exhibitionism and participate in hookup culture.” As defined by the online Urban Dictionary, hookup is to “have any form of intimacy with a member of the preferred sex that you don’t consider a significant other.”
In the Philippines, the alter world of Twitter is thriving. Why is this so? Twitter, among social media platforms, has the most liberal attitude when it comes to nudity. Based on Twitter’s terms of service, it forbids graphic nudity in the user’s avatar or header BUT it allows sharing of images and videos which contain partial or full nudity. This includes close-up photos or videos of breasts, genitals, and asses. Twitter is the haven of nudists.
The following are my impressions on Twitter’s alterverse (after immensely enjoying the graphic tweets of these ‘enterprising’ users):
Freedom. Any individual can freely express himself/herself online without having to think about censorship. He/she can express his/her opinion on matters that are important to himself or herself. Anybody can rant or praise online. The user is empowered to do whatever he or she wants with his/her account. “My page, my rules” is the common norm. The user is free to delete Tweets that he/she does not agree with. He/she has the power to follow, unfollow, block, or report a tweet. He/she can “like” or retweet as well.
Alter account means the new you. This is the online universe where you can easily reinvent yourself. You can be whoever you want to be. A user can be an esteemed government official, doctor, professor, etc, and yet in his or her alterverse, he or she is a sex-starved maniac, prostitute, pedophile, dominatrix, nudist, etc. The alterverse of Twitter gives everyone the chance to live their dreams and be incognito at the same time.
Twitter is for entrepreneurs also. Sex videos and photos are for sale on Twitter. It has become an online market for pornography and legit products alike. One can sell his/her nudes here in Manila and somebody from London purchases it online. This is so rampant based on the time I have spent browsing on Twitter’s online ‘market.’ Legit products, on the other hand, that are sold online include personal hygiene kits/items, food, succulents/plants, gadgets, clothes, and even pets.
The alterverse of Twitter is exciting. Depending on how you use it, Twitter can give you fame or notoriety and increase your sphere of influence among your followers and the general users. I know two friends (who have alter accounts) on Twitter whose followers exceed 120,000 each as of today. They are not celebrities. They are mere mortals who work for a BPO company (Friend A) and a bank (Friend B). Friend A is a confessed narcissist who loves tweeting his face and other mundane activities online. Friend B is a brilliant writer who is into erotic literature and uses Twitter as his online platform. His stories have been retweeted multiple times.