The Jakarta Post
Elections used to be a once in five years affair. But thanks to social media and the 24-hour news cycle, it has become a part of our daily lives.
Social media has not only allowed people to closely follow the horse race but because of the direct nature of communication between political candidates and their supporters, the latter have been able to develop attachment to the former more easily. Supporters and would-be voters can easily build emotional ties with candidates and social media can be the soapbox on which they defend their choices passionately.
Talking about politics online is now no longer a pastime but has turned into a fistfight and one wrong statement could land everyone, especially those considered public figures, in hot water. And these days, no day passes without fresh controversy breaking out on social media.
Early in February, Communications and Information Minister Rudiantara became embroiled in a controversy when he lost his cool after dealing with a government employee who appeared to have shown support for President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s rival in the 2019 presidential election. The minister then became the target of an attack when his question to the said government worker became a trending topic on Twitter with the hashtag #YangGajiKamuSiapa (Who’sPayingYourSalary?).
After two days, the controversy died down and netizens moved on to the next controversy. Last Thursday, political junkies again found the perfect target for their attacks. When the CEO of giant e-commerce platform Bukalapak, Ahmad Zaky, tweeted that President Jokowi’s administration had not invested enough in research and development and that the “new” president should improve the situation, he had unwittingly drawn himself into a fierce battle between two political camps.
Before midnight Thursday, the hashtag #UninstallBukalapak was trending online and Zaky became the target of memes designed to inflict the most harm on his brand. The damage was so severe that on Saturday, Jokowi himself invited Zaky to the State Palace and made the call that people should stop uninstalling Bukalapak from their gadgets. As Zaky and Bukalapak were doing their best to contain the public relations disaster, also trending online was the hashtag #UninstallJokowi and #DukungBukalapak (SupportBukalapak), which were most likely the handiwork of Prabowo supporters.
The fallout came quickly for Bukalapak. The online platform’s rating dropped to 3 out of 5 stars on Sunday on Apple’s App Store from 4.3 last week. On Google Play Store, where the company claims to be the “best-rated marketplace”, Bukalapak is now rated 4.2 out of 5 stars, also lower than last week.
This backlash however will likely be short-lived and Bukalapak will likely not suffer financially from this controversy. After five days, people will be calm and carry on. But Zaky’s Twitter faux-pas is a teaching moment not only for himself but for any CEO, government official or public figure. As voting day nears and tensions run higher, choose your words carefully on and offline.
Your mouth is your tiger, an old Indonesian proverb says.