The Banality of Online Activism

September 23, 2014 at 3:23 pm | Posted in katarsis | 3 Comments
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I find it disturbing that people actually use the Munir campaign to look edgy. I really wish I was wrong, that as a cynic I was too prejudiced to believe that people on Twitter are genuinely trying to raise public awareness on human rights, that they do care about Munir and they do want the case to be resolved—a decade after the fact. Yes, you are correct. There is no way we could ever know what’s on people’s mind, their true motives for doing anything. Who are we to judge whether one is truly angered by the government’s lethargy in finding the killers of Munir and sending them to jail? Who are we to decide whether the whole Munir campaign is nothing but a moral grandstanding of online activists and a horde of middle-class Indonesians who wish to be taken seriously as the more educated, more cultured and more politically-conscious elite? I’m indeed in no position to judge anyone. I know that. But you have to agree with me that all this shall pass in just a matter of days and that probably only seconds after writing a very, very solemn, almost poetic and elegiac tweet about the slain activist, those Twitter twats will return to their old habit of making stupid jokes about JKT48 members and flirting with their kohai followers, who read their tweets with irrational adoration. Can’t you see the banality of this—that we are now living in a time when telling other people that you care about Munir and having an Iphone are the same thing? It is actually more absurd than that. Social media is a mirror. As Jonathan Franzen says, “We like the mirror and the mirror likes us. To friend a person is merely to include the person in our private hall of flattering mirrors.” It’s not all bad, of course. I have to admit that, nauseating as they were, the copras-copres debates might have saved Indonesia from the Prabowo coalition. I did vote for Jokowi and still think that we are better off with the skinny guy. But there is always this sense that whatever goes viral on social media will soon become stale and silently fade into irrelevance; there is always this perception that social media is just too crowded and noisy and deafening and disorganized that nothing could be taken seriously anymore. I’m not saying that we should take everything so seriously and discourage humor. I love humor. I love satire and sarcasm. It’s our way to cope with an ugly and disappointing reality. But we Indonesians terribly suck at humor. We’re good at forgetting things. We’re good at finding new problems to talk about, without ever solving any of them. We just look around, and: hey, new problem! But, still, as we now live in social media mirrors, we want to be seen as, and we surely want to see in our reflection, a man who really cares about Munir. If this isn’t banal, I don’t know what is.


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  1. Been thinking in a similar perspective lately. I’m involved in several your so called online activism, from the #IndonesiaTanpaFPI campaign and so on and so forth.
    I kinda think that yes, for most people the so called online activism is just part of entertainment. Some of them even getting involved in order to gain popularity(?).

    But then again, every once in a while, on those so called online activism I’ve met some truly dedicated activist, like Dhyta Caturani *you might want to check my latest blogpost dedicated for her* and many other similar minded person.

    I think, once you really get involved, you can tell which one whose in it for entertainment and getting popularity, and which one who really dedicated with their cause. And personally these days, I think I only used social media as a tool for information dissemination, not as a tool to really build a cause anymore…

  2. @galeshka: Ah, thanks for the comment! It gives me a new perspective on this. You’re one of the very few online activists I know. And you’re pretty consistent. I respect that. Interesting that you can actually tell between people who are in it for the cause and those who are obsessed with anything hip on Twitter. I wouldn’t be able to know the difference. 😛

  3. I wouldn’t really called myself an activist, just a concerned citizen 😀

    About how to really tell the difference, you actually can’t. Not based on twitter anyway. You really have to get involved, then you’ll see who’s really in it for the cause. You see, the one whose really in it for the cause, will understand that whatever issues they’re trying to advocate won’t be settled in online world, you also have to work in the real world. When it come to this part, then you’ll see whose really committed themselves for their cause. At least that’s how I see it 😀

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