In Indonesia, globalisation and socio-economic growth are facilitating a phenomenal liberalisation of views and exchanges, specifically in relation to technology and social media. Indonesia is one of the highest users of Twitter and Facebook, but what is it about Indonesian culture that makes social media so appealing? And how do these desires intersect with conservative Islamic ideals in a country that’s populace is 88.1% Muslim (Rodgers, 2011)?
In some areas, Western influence in Indonesia is noted as catalysing a regression in progressive Islam, (Harworth, 2012), however it is also propounded that “The effects of socio-economic change, modernisation and globalisation have resulted in more freedom and autonomy for Indonesian youth, and many are becoming increasingly liberal in their attitudes, ideas and behaviours…” (Harding 2008). Although the greater Muslim population in Indonesia is moderate, there still remains conflict between clerics and (predominantly) urban Indonesian’s surrounding the use of technology in alignment with Islamic beliefs, specifically in relation to photography and self-expression.
The notion of pride is generally opposed in Islam (Hay, 2015) as it is believed it is intrinsic to other negative states of being like arrogance, superiority and conceit. There is great debate among Islamic clerics and the Muslim community around whether photography, specifically selfies, are haram (forbidden). In January of this year, an Indonesian author and Islamic cleric, Felix Siauw, ironically used twitter as a medium to post a 17-point manifesto condemning selfies, calling them a sin, specifically for women. In a translation by Coconuts Jakarta, Siauw is quoted as saying “[Five.] If we take a selfie and we feel cooler and better than others—we’ve fallen into the worst sin of all, ARROGANCE.” (Hay 2015) which demonstrates the imbalance between certain interpretations of Islam and the reality of an increasingly globalised community. This twitter tirade was not well received by the urban, tech-centric, Indonesia population and quickly prompted the hashtag #selfie4siauw, causing a massive spate of spite-induced selfies, much to Siauw’s assumed distaste.
But what is it about Indonesian culture that facilitates such an overwhelming response to technology and social media? As a means of greater understanding the social climate the led to this embrace of technology, I referred to a BBC Impact news story from as early as 2011, investigating Indonesia’s growing interest in mobile technologies and social media as a means of communication and connection. Magareta Astaman, a prolific Indonesian blogger and author, believes Indonesia’s culture of connectedness, community and the desire to have a shared experience is what makes social media so appealing (Husain, 2011). During this time period Indonesia was producing 15% of the worlds tweets, with Facebook users jumping from 1 million to 40 million in just 2 years (Husain, 2011). This was a time when social media and technology were in not way as prolific and engrained as they are today. And with Indonesia’s smart phone use steadily increasing (Mahamel, 2014), Indonesian culture is set to be increasingly inextricable from social media and technology use.
1 – Rodgers, S. 2011, ‘Muslim Population by Country: How Big Will Each Population Be By 2030?’, The Guardian, January 29, viewed 25 April 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2011/jan/28/muslim-population-country-projection-2030? >
2 – Haworth, A. 2012, ‘The day I saw 287 girl suffering genital mutilation”, The Guardian, November 18, viewed April 23 2015, <http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/nov/18/female-genital-mutilation-circumcision-indonesia>
3 – Harding, C. 2008, ‘The Influence of the ‘Decadent West’: Discourses of the Mass Media on Youth Sexuality in Indonesia, Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific, vol. 18, viewed April 25 2015, <http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue18/harding.htm>
5 – Hay, M. 2015, ‘An Indonesian Cleric Cause a Massive Spike in Selfies after Declaring Selfies a Sin’, Vice, January 28, viewed 25 April,
6 – Kuruvilla, C. 2015, ‘Indonesian Cleric Calls Selfies a Sin. Muslin youth Respond With More Selfies’, Huffington Post, January 28, viewed April 25 2015, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/28/indonesia-selfie-sin-selfie4siauw_n_6563754.html>
7 – Husain, M. 2011, Indonesia’s Social Media Movement, video recording, YouTube, viewed April 22, < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pp7O-1eGu3Y>
8 – Mahamel, A. 2014, ‘Indonesia’s Smart Phone Use Surges But Still Lags’, Voice of America, June 16, viewed 25 April, <http://www.voanews.com/content/indonesian-smartphone-usage-surges-but-still-lags/1938198.html>
9 – Nha_anolL, 2015, ‘
#Selfie4Siauw #WorldHijabDay #WorkingNakedDay ‘ Twitter Post, February 8, viewed 25 April, <https://twitter.com/Nha_anolL/status/564591888049504258>