From paperbacks to audiobooks, stories have always comforted us through thick and thin. Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen’s Wattpad took the publishing world by surprise.
Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla played a nerd and a gangster in She’s Dating A Gangster. Then, James Reid and Nadine Lustre portrayed the ugly duckling and the heartthrob in Diary ng Panget. These iconic films come from hit Wattpad novels based on the same titles. Bianca Bernardino wrote She’s Dating A Gangster under the pen name SGwannabe. Meanwhile, Denny wrote Diary ng Panget under the pseudonym HaveYouSeenThisGirl.
Over the years, Wattpad grew more prominent and made its own community.
To get an inside perspective of the Wattpad community, we interviewed one of its writers Rayne Mariano who writes under the pen name pilosopotasya. Rayne Mariano is, first and foremost, a storyteller. She started writing in an online forum called Teen Talk under the topic, Creative Corner.
She even remembered Denny in 2009 posting on the said forum. In 2012, she began writing under her pseudonym which she derived from one of Jose Rizal‘s characters in Noli Me Tangere. After creating her own account, Mariano saw her stories being reposted on the site even after introducing herself as the original author.
Trouble in Paradise
toxic fan wars, misinformed sexual content, and vague age restrictions
Although Wattpad has established its hold on Filipinos as a reading application, its community still continues to fumble. Slowly, readers and writers became known for picking internet fights and fan wars. Eventually, this would even lead to discourses of cyberbullying. As for the writers, on the other hand, stories marked as erotica sometimes disseminate misinformation about sex.
As of February 2020, 90% of Wattpad’s users are from Generation Z, indicating that most of Wattpad’s target audience is minors (Smith, 2021). Because of this, there had been years of discourse on age restrictions. Restrictions for mature content are not enough to prevent minors from accessing them. Because users could easily fake their age, only the cooperation of parents and the platform’s team could solve this dilemma.
Despite the negativity surrounding Wattpad’s name, Mariano decided to stay on the platform.
According to her, Wattpad’s problems are no different than that of other online communities. For Mariano, a user has three guitar options for socializing upon signing up.
One, maging basher din. Two, walang paki. [And] Three, tumulong para magka-positive connotation ang Wattpad.
Mariano chooses to lessen the issues surrounding Wattpad’s name as she herself is part of the community for more than 9 years. More than that, she is now a Wattpad Staff who helps backstage.
A Train of Thought
Wattpad as a boot camp for aspiring writers
Besides assisting Wattpad in creating and managing authors, Mariano believes that Wattpad is a “legitimate” environment for skilled writers and critical readers. She also thinks of Wattpad as a game-changer in this generation’s publishing, writing, and reading. However, its flaws need to be addressed properly. The readers must learn to co-exist. The authors must create quality stories with appropriate content and trigger warnings.
Sino pang magtutulungan kundi ‘yong mga taga-community rin?
Wattpad’s community led her to find new friends. Because through the internet, Wattpad grants its users the honor to interact with fellow readers and writers worldwide, promoting diversity.
Walang [masyadong] fiction books for teens and young adults [sa book store]. Kung hindi adult books, parang si Bob Ong na ‘yong pinakamalapit sa teens.
She expressed concern about the lack of books and reading materials aimed at Filipino teens.
[Books na] may pinaglalaban sa society, sa politics, etc. [na gawa ng] mga awardees. We get it – p’wede naman ito basahin ng teens and young adults – pero paano sila makaka-relate in their day-to-day lives? Mababaw man sa iba, but still, keyword: relatable.
Mariano reiterated that Wattpad has free stories to read and teenagers could (almost) only afford free content.
[But] I do think they stay, kasi it is a community. When you have people surrounding you with the same interests, siyempre, you gravitate toward them.
Canada’s Lau and Yuen primarily created Wattpad as a platform to share stories. Now that it became a community where users can bond over their comfort characters, their actions outside the platform might not be beyond its creators’ control.
Wattpad could be recognized as a hallmark of this generation’s literature as long as its volunteers and staff dedicate time to manage, regulate, and screen content. In the end, the platform’s time under the spotlight of reading and writing apps could only be told by its teams’ drive and passion.
As long as there are stories and content for these teams to regulate and polish, Wattpad’s legacy as a reading and writing platform will live on. We can only hope that authors won’t stop writing and that readers won’t tire from reading.
As long as nakikita ng iba na kalidad ‘yong k’wento, at nag-resonate sa kanila, then they will support it pa rin. As long as it is on the internet, it can be read.
In the end, Wattpad’s journey of being recognized as a “legitimate” platform for budding writers and critical readers rests on its community’s shoulders. In the end, its members must understand and remember the very purpose of its existence – to create and share stories.
As for the never-ending discourse on Wattpad’s Coins Feature and Paid Program, Mariano took action on Twitter with the hashtag, “#NormalizeAuthorsGettingPaid.”
Minsan lang magkaroon ng pagkakataong mabigyan ng compensation ang mga manunulat sa effort nila at mabuhay nang practical dahil sa pagsusulat. Sana hindi rin ito i-gatekeep para sa authors.
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If Florence is not busy with her school works, then she is probably binge-watching TV series and films. She finds it easier to write with the help of playlists she curated. However, she is still looking for the balance between fiction writing and journalism. Because she likes both, she tries to do both even if their techniques and concepts could not be farther from each other.