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Yudhoyono’s arrival on
Twitter lets down pundits,
porn star

Those who wonder why President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has opened up a Twitter account in the waning days of his administration should remember the old saw “If you can beat ‘em, join ‘em”.

After his critics have derided his policies, actions and inactions for years on social media platforms, Yudhoyono joined the popular micro-blogging site Twitter over the weekend. Quite predictably, the President raked in more than half a million followers almost overnight.

However, instead of receiving praise for his social media savoir faire, Yudhoyono received a harsh introduction to life online shortly after posting his first message.

“Hello, people of Indonesia. I have joined Twitter to exchange greetings, views and inspirations. Nice to meet you,” the President said.

Local Twitter celebrity Sudjiwo Tedjo, who is also a dalang (puppeteer) and singer, quickly replied, riffing on Yudhoyono’s trademark statement, “Saya prihatin”. (I am concerned), and mixing it with his typically irreverent language.

Sudjiwo also renamed his account @SBJiwoyono, a jibe at Yudhoyono’s Twitter handle, @SBYudhoyono.

The President’s decision to join Twitter was met by disappointment from the Norwegian-born porn star and webmaster Vicky Vette, who poked fun by saying: “Sad @SBYu-dhoyono hasn’t followed me yet, maybe he doesn’t like my movies.”

Other Twitter users noted the similarity of Yudhoyono’s profile to that of US President Barack Obama, especially in the use of “sby” if a Twitter message was written by the President himself, the way Obama uses “bo” in all his personal messages on the site.

However, Yudhoyono’s arrival on Twitter might have been part of a larger outreach campaign: First Lady Ani Yudhoyono has also created an account for the popular photo-sharing application Instagram.

The State Palace previously opened the Twitter account @istanarakyat, run by Palace staffers, to publicize the President’s day-to-day activities, while Yudhoyono’s two sons, Eddhie “Ibas” Baskoro and Agus Harimurti, each have personal Twitter accounts.

Separately, Twitter verified the account of Yudhoyono on Sunday, giving it a literal seal of authenticity.

“The management of Twitter appreciated the President’s decision to join the social media platform, and they also suggested that his family members should join, too,” Presidential spokesperson Julian Aldrin Pasha told The Jakarta Post over the weekend.

“They even offered to verify these accounts,” Julian added.

The State Palace has denied rumors that Yudhoyono had to pay US$15,000 to have his account verified.

Analysts said that Yudhoyono’s sudden interest in social media during the last year-and-a-half of his administration was motivated partly by his desire to leave office on a high note.

“He probably doesn’t want the public to only remember negative things about his presidency,” Andrinof Chaniago of the University of Indonesia (UI) said.

“He is certainly aware that the public will judge his performance, especially in terms of leadership, as inadequate.”

Separately, political communications expert Effendi Ghazali agreed with Andrinof, saying that Yudhoyono has realized that he needs to leave an indelible mark.

“Leaders feel a strong urge to create a positive image of themselves near the end of their terms. Obama already has a specific program, which is Obamacare, as his legacy,” Effendi said.

Term limits bar Yudhoyono from seeking reelection in 2014.

Effendi said that Yudhoyono must prepare for the onslaught on criticism, both substantial and irrelevant, that comes with posting to Twitter.

“Twitter users tend to be spontaneous when they send messages. Their criticism is not based on careful thinking,” Effendi said.

Andrinof said that there would be little that Yudhoyono could do about attacks delivered via Twitter.

“People tend to be very critical on social media, because it provides people with freedom with almost no constraints,” Andrinof said. (ogi)

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