[XL Future Leaders] TED Talks: Digital Activism


Have you ever imagined what can you do with one click of a hand? Check the insides of your bag, and you may found the device that makes a single click able to produce a massive impact. By accessing social media though gadgets, we can access information from everywhere. And as many philosophers have said, information is the most deadly weapon.


The travel of information made it possible to change the way people think, and thus determine their further action. There had been many notable international movements that actually rooted in social media acts, such as Arab Springs. They use social media as a platform to make social change. The question is: do you do it as well?


How do you use social media? As a personal sharing platform, or rather use it to it’s full potential to actually make a change? Here I social movement in social media–titled digital activism–based on their use.


The most basic use of social media is personal-level sharing. We share our own thoughts on things, including social issues, and make comments on it. Sujiwo Tejo, a notable figure in literary, art, and politics, use his social media account as a platform to make satire comments of our governments. His satire comments had received a big number of response on the issues.


From a mini research conducted, it is found that most pople begin to be aware of an issue from social media postings such as Sujiwo Tejo. This phenomenon proves that social media can tell people what to think about as they search for further information.


The second level of digital activism includes demand for solution, which can be found in any digital activists’ social media accounts such as Melanie Subono. She shares not only her critiques to governments, but also her demands on how they should act. This kind of activists invite others to think the same way–telling them what to think about the issue. However, though in this level there had been people gathering to support an opinion, it does not necessarily leads to social change.


What’s the use of opinion in making changes if only stated individually–sporadic? It’s like hitting with five fingers separately rather than one big fist. opinion can only have power when it is stated by a number of people as public representatives. Usman Hamid, a human right activist, sees the opportunity to actually turn that individual voices towards social change. In 2012, he established Change.org Indonesia, an online petition platform that gather support for public causes. We can make changes by just clicking on “sign this petition” button.


There had been many successful attempts of digital activism by the use of Change.org. One of the most notable ones is on our next governmental elections’ system that succeeded with almost 120 thousands supporters.


Sujiwo Tejo, believe that massive responses shows social media effectiveness to remind the governments on things they should do.


Usman Hamid’s online petition platform changes our social activism culture. By posting short information on the issue to Change.org, people consider clicking a button as an act of contribution towards change.


Research conducted showed that people tend to get actively involved virtually rather than in real world. This proves the shift of activism from real to virtual world that receives several critiques.


First, some researches sees that digital activism removes the main core of social movement, which is caring attitude–the spirit to make a change. A click for a change shows less effort to feel “contributing” that means people may do that for no reason at all. They may not have sufficient knowledge and interest on the topic, but following the trend to support the cause.


Second, the representativeness is unnoticeable. We cannot detect whether the ones supporting our cause are the public that we’re targeting. The principle of representativeness is if it is given to the right public, however we cannot filter who can support our cause virtually. The undetected support also leads to irresponsibility of support that connects with the previous critique.


Hamid acknowledges those disadvantages of digital activism, but believe that virtual realm still provides big chance of issue support. It makes it easier to mobilize people into actually making a change, but it should be noted that changes may come positively or negatively, depending on the people behind it and their rationality.


The things to be noted here is that our clicks can make a difference, and therefore it must be thought with rationality before. Easier ways does not necessarily mean less responsibility on cause support. It represents our views as citizens on the issue.


By using social media, we can voice our opinion–simple, yet it shows our concern. Social media, with it’s easier to use characteristics, encourage people to participate more actively in building a better society. Everybody can make a change, starting from a click of a button.





Interview with Sujiwo Tejo, Usman Hamid, and Melanie Subono

Survey conducted with 100 respondents aged 17-30 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Various Imageries


Presented in TED XL Future Leaders 2015




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