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Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
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Youths, politics and the role of social media

  • Brea Salim

    The Jakarta Post

New York | Sat, October 12, 2013 | 11:59 am

The first thing I do when I wake up every morning, like any other young adult in their twenties, is to check my phone. Reading updates posted during the time you are asleep is a great way to get the brain functioning without actually leaving the bed.

I have been going to school in the States for the past few years, so my diverse friend list guarantees that there will always be someone awake and active on social media, even when I am asleep.

Usually I check Instagram first, because it'€™s easy on the eyes '€” just a few pictures of the food my friends have had to eat when I was in bed. Then, I check Path to see where people have been and what songs they have been listening to. Lastly, I check Facebook, which most of the time, has the most updates for me. Usually, it'€™s a mix of photos of people hanging out, funny links between friends and more often than not, angry status updates at the American government.

Facebook, as you can tell, is usually the chosen social media platform that my American friends turn to. It is not surprising when something terribly dramatic is happening in the American government, I will get the lowdown of what happened the instant I check Facebook.

There would be articles on the recent legalization of gay marriage in another state, the unjustified murder of Trayvon Martin, an African American boy, Obama'€™s rage over Syria, or more recently, the confusing shutdown of the American government. There is a reason why I choose to open Facebook the last, for the content of the updates are often dense, in comparison to Path, a social media reserved for my Indonesian friends and ridiculous memes.

I should be thankful that I have educated and well-read American friends who inform me what is going on with their government. But, at the risk of sounding shallow and uneducated, there are just times when I simply could not care less about politics.

Why? Well, I was raised with the mindset that politics do not matter. I grew up overhearing conversations between my parents and their friends on how Indonesian politics are corrupt and will never change.

Why, then, must we be outraged when another politician gets caught red-handed stealing half of the country'€™s funds, or be worried when another demonstration is happening? To care about politics in Indonesia is being like a hopeless romantic pining for a player '€” someone who is naively wasting their time.

The sentiment in the US on caring about politics, however, is the complete opposite. The Democratic Club in my high school was one of the most active clubs, and the same goes in the college I am currently enrolled now. Many of my friends have worked on campaigns and interned with senators.

My best friend from high school even celebrated her 19th birthday on an Obama campaign bus last year, as she knocked on countless doors in Ohio and reminded people to vote. (My status update for her birthday was: Thank you for the best birthday gift for Christina, America! #fourmoreyears).

I am not saying that everyone I knew went on a trip like Christina'€™s '€” people certainly have different levels of political involvement '€” but if one didn'€™t at least keep up with what was going on in politics, he or she would be looked upon as backwards and uneducated. The level of genuine political participation in the United States is truly amazing '€” their democracy may not be perfect (or even close to it at all), but I certainly understand why they boast of it so often.

A democracy by definition is a political institution that is by the people and for the people; doesn'€™t it make sense if ours then should consist of more than just the corrupt politicians up top? I am certainly not saying all of should just go ahead and aim to become a politician, since let'€™s face it, not all of us can be great public speakers, present company included. But I think a good first step, especially for teenagers and young adults alike, is to at least be informed.

Start reading about why the demonstrators are shouting in the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle in Central Jakarta, or what President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono plans to do about the fuel prices. This is homework for me too '€” American news sites are already abuzz with who will be running in 2016, when I have no idea who is even running next year for Indonesia'€™s presidential elections (or whether I would have heard of any of them).

Maybe you can even go on an extra step ahead and post a link of a news article or two on Path, to help inform your friends of what is going on in our beloved country. Between the jomblo (bachelor) and galau (anxious) memes, of course.

The writer is studying at Barnard College, Columbia University, New York.