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Jakarta residents use their mobile phones in front of an office in Kuningan area, Central Jakarta, on Friday. (JP/Jerry Adiguna)
Social media brings to the country a sense of connectivity — to be a part of something bigger than oneself and a feeling that together, people can actually make a difference.
The pages of Twitter and Facebook are filled with numerous organizations with different goals — the goals that they aim to achieve from the ground up.
“With digital technology, it is like social relationships are now on steroids” said Enda Nasution, a popular blogger who set up the website salingsilang.com.
“Indonesians have a different concept of friendship; most will have over 2,000 friends on their Facebook accounts. If someone asks to be your friend, it is considered an honor.”
Enda, a strong advocate for social media, explains its potential to benefit the nation at many levels, from education to commerce and business.
Facilitating the creation and organization of pressure groups, he believes that the true power of social media is its ability to spread awareness and push for change — a power that recently came out in full force following the cancellation of Lady Gaga’s concert in Jakarta.
With hundreds of Lady Gaga’s “little monsters” tuned logging onto Twitter and Facebook to question the government and defend their freedom of expression, the flame of social media in Jakarta was ignited.
At the time, the official Twitter account for Indonesian Gaga fans, @LadyGagaINDO was brought alive with passionate tweets defending their idol and was also used to coordinate a flash-mob event on June 3 in protest of the government’s apparent surrender to the demands of the Islam Defenders Front (FPI).
The frustration behind this online petition bounced right off the web pages of change.org, making it difficult to ignore the anti-FPI appeals.
Founded by 31-year-old Ben Rattray, change.org gives people the power to get behind a cause with a simple click.
In Indonesia, it has been used to appeal to international organizations, including the United Nations, to have the FPI banished from the country if the Indonesian government was unable to do so within one year.
In this way, social media is not only used to reach out to those who seek to better their lives, but also those whose lives are at risk.
Bernard Wahyumandiri, edutainment coordinator of Yayasan Aids, said that Twitter and Facebook had been crucial in forwarding their campaign.
“These sites help us to keep on reminding people about HIV in Indonesia, and more importantly, we can reach out to people who may need our information,” he said.
The organization’s Twitter account, @YAIDS, the following of which is growing by around 100-300 people a month, acts as an online safety net, welcoming those who need a support network.
It is not simply these websites’ capacity to reach out to individuals that give them such power, but also the trendy images they carry and the demographics of their users, particularly young adults.
When one thinks of a teenager’s interests, gardening is not something that immediately comes to mind.
This is something that Sigit Kusamawijaya, one of the initiators of Indonesia Berkebun, has sought to change.
“Teenagers may not like the idea of gardening, that is why we use Twitter to make it more fun. We can make jokes about it and we can encourage followers to post pictures of what they have planted, which we can then resend,” he said.
The organization, which has the Twitter account @IDBerkebun, uses social-media platforms to encourage sustainable development in cities around Indonesia.
Hoping for a greener future for Indonesia, the community is “based on urban apprehension, such as environmental destruction and the lack of public green spaces and also impending food shortages in the future”.
They are proud winners of the Google Inc. award in the Web-Heroes category as they used Twitter to rapidly attract a strong following of 1,000 followers in their first month after being launched in Oct. 2010.
Sigit’s happiness at the thought of a growing environmental conscience is contagious, as “the spirit has already spread to more than 20 cities in Indonesia via Twitter”.
So, a simple click may not be enough to change the world, but a power lies at our fingertips that must not go to waste.
Like a virtual megaphone, social media has amplified voices that were previously unheard — voices from all corners of Indonesian life.
While there may be challenges to overcome, we are embarking on a journey in search of a better future with the aid of digital platforms.
A journey that, according to Enda, “we will all have to be involved in”.
— The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post