Social media: the “bad influence” ruining Indonesian young people?

Investigations into a prominent Indonesia blogger are casting a light onto the online world of teenagers and raising concern that the country’s morals are under threat.

By Fawnia

The rise of “social media famous” young people in Indonesia is causing concern. Like any other part of the world, Indonesian youngsters are avid users of social media platforms; Instagram, Twitter, and lately, The seemingly harmless addiction, however, is not as innocent as it appears to be.

Karin Novilda, only 18 years of age, is just like any other teenage girl in Jakarta. What makes her stands out, though, is that her Instagram followers exceed a whopping one million. Going by the alias awkarin on multiple social networking sites, Novilda is highly influential. The problem lies in what kind of influence that is.

The self-proclaimed fashion blogger often shares snaps of her and her significant other being intimate. On top of that, her spewing profanities or smoking are often caught on camera and proudly uploaded. Her scantily clad figure has also caused quite a controversy, as many label her lifestyle as unfitting for Indonesia’s traditional culture.

Public displays of affection and any out-of-norm behaviors are frowned upon in the national culture so it is not surprising that it is Novilda’s critics that have earned her her popularity.

A week ago, Novilda once again landed herself in the headlines as she released a rap song with artist, Young Lex. The song, titled Bad, reflects the overall quality of the production, but it is the lyrics that irk parents alike. The words imply that it is acceptable to be foul-mouthed and emphasise the falseness of people’s judgment on both of them.

Concerned authoritative figures took decisive action by reporting Novilda, and another blogger Anya Geraldine, who filmed her recent getaway with her boyfriend to the KPAI (Indonesian Child Protection Commission). Novilda, who once admitted grossing up to Rp 30 million (roughly US$ 2,300) every two days out of her endorsement deals and YouTube ad earnings, is accused of being a public figure with no moral responsibility.

And because most of her followers are underage teenagers, it is only reasonable that KPAI is scrutinizing her posts.

Too far?

With governmental institutions now involved, the public’s interest in young social media celebrities seems has increased. Many are insistent that such a move is entirely unnecessary and pointless. Womens rights activist Chika Noya even questioned the standards used by KPAI, saying the action was “an attempt to control a woman’s right of her body and sexuality.”

Noya urged KPAI to instead educate the public rather than ban social media influencers like Novilda, and even criticized the “double standard,” for not taking action against schools that require their non-Muslim students to wear a hijab. Noya further implied that KPAI has been limiting “freedom of expression.”

KPAI secretary general Erlinda answered this claim saying “An individual’s right is limited by other individuals’ rights, as well as the law and the norm. If she (Novilda) wants only her rights to be respected, please, go live in the jungle.” Erlinda had previously said Novilda’s uploads “contradict the existing norm and the identity of the nation.”

She also criticized the blogger’s way of presenting indecent acts as a lifestyle. According to Erlinda, this is apparent from her “improper speech, displaying her body sensually and behaving imprudently with her boyfriend.”

Youth in danger

The “be yourself, do what you want to do” adage is something that teens, no matter where they are, would like to believe. As as youngsters struggle to face turbulent years trying to find their identity, even the slightest influence can easily change them for good, or for bad.

But parents, as always, are the first-line of defense when it comes to battling widespread negative influences. Although each and every person’s beliefs and principles may vary, parents always want nothing but the best for their children. And this may include educating their young ones on the danger of defying social norms in an attempt to be a ‘unique’ individual.

Though being yourself is what every youth aspires to be it is good to keep in mind that Indonesia is a country that still upholds Eastern culture and thus, there is no harm in complying with the existing norms. As the saying goes, when in Rome, do as the Romans do.