A common sight these days. (Source)

Indonesians and their Phones!

Phones remain the only mode of comms in an increasingly disconnected archipelago.

Picture this. You want to know how mom and dad are doing back home. But you don’t have enough money to physically visit them. You’re in Jakarta, and they’re in Bali — that’s IDR 1.5 million for a return trip — and your paycheck barely keeps you alive. So, what do you do?


Praise the Lord for the inventor of smartphones.

In a world where people are continuously writing about the dangers of phones and glamorizing disconnection from phones, I would make a case that smartphones are the only link that remains between fellow Indonesians in an increasingly disconnected archipelago.

Let’s take a look at some stats, shall we? According to these infographics from Tech in Asia, these are the statistics for Indonesia’s digital community:

It is clear that Indonesia has one of the largest social media consumers in the world. We wouldn’t have to do this if we were easily connected in a physical way.

Perhaps those who have experienced living in Jakarta can relate to me on this. So, you want to visit a friend who lives in East Jakarta, but you live in Bekasi. Technically, you just need thirty minutes by car to visit your friend. But thanks to the god-awful gridlock that happens every day, you need an extra hour (sometimes three!) just to visit your friend. Not to mention the stress of navigating through one of the busiest and messiest cities on Earth. May God have mercy on your soul. But we can streamline all of that, thanks to the numerous chatting and social media applications we have at our fingertips. Bored? Just Skype. It’s the next best thing to actually meeting your friend in the flesh. Miss mum and dad? Don’t worry, you can stay connected with WhatsApp all the time. Got a girlfriend/boyfriend and in need of some romantic expression? Easy, there’s a million LINE stickers to help you communicate without words and Snapchat to do some cyber-nasty.

To put it simply, phones provide an alternative to human connection that Indonesians need. They can’t help it. They live in a city that is designed to be disconnected. In Jakarta, to get somewhere, you’d need to change minibuses at least once. Transportation costs are what made a hole in my budget when I lived there. Imagine, to get to my friend’s house in Kelapa Gading from Central Jakarta, I had to change buses three times with a total time of 1 hour on the road (thirty if I’m lucky). In Jakarta, when you’re in a car, you’re still not safe. You get stuck in messy traffic jams and occasionally get carjacked. Since being on the road takes so much time and is very stressful, a smartphone is an alternative method to remain connected with friends and family. An online presence is, in some ways, better than not being present at all.

No wonder Indonesians love their phones. Andre Vltchek, in his book Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear confessed that he once made fun of Indonesians being glued non-stop to their phones, but he began to pity them as those 5-inch screens may be the only link that connects them in a disconnected archipelago.

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