Year 2015: Under the Ever-Engulfing Virtual Spotlight

Has it really been another year? That’s pretty scary, my dear.

It’s even scarier when your ups and downs throughout the year are played out under the spotlight. And in these days of 24/7 news cycle on digital media, reverberated enthusiastically by social media, that’s an ever-engulfing virtual spotlight alright.

Now what if, instead of celebrities’ follies being recycled by the vicious Netizens, the first salvo into the gossip foray was actually fired by the celebrities themselves through their social media handles? Then holy hell would perpetually break loose like short-circuited firework machine on New Year’s Eve. Scary? Merry, baby.

The merriness certainly comes in varying degrees, depending on the magnitude of the salvo itself. Chico Hakim, former husband of actress-turned-politician Wanda Hamidah, got infotainment shows spinning after posting on Instagram a backside shot of him holding hands with singer Yuni Shara. Both are recently single again, so there was no scandal per se, and the only big thing that gossip shows were fixated on was the fact that the new couple had coupled before with another man and woman who, at some point, were a couple themselves. If Hollywood has “6 Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon”, perhaps Indonesia should have “6 Degrees of Separation from Yuni Shara”—and I do mean it in a nice way (We’re still friends, yes, Chico? Best of luck for the new romance!).

Yet, when a salacious scandal is the major potion in the mix, all kinds of demon would come out of the woodwork to play. Take the affair between Riana Rara Kalsum with Zulfikar Rakita Dewa that Riana announced unapologetically, almost gleefully, through her blog that she launched about the same time she filed complaints to the military.

The military, indeed, for the beau in question was in service, with supposedly promising career, stationed overseas in the prestigious UN Peacekeepers unit nonetheless. It certainly made it spicier that not only the man was supposedly seriously dating another woman back home; he is also the prideful son of a famous-actor-turned-Deputy-Governor. The affair reportedly had started off last year as flirtatious banters on semi-private social media platform Path and chat app Line, that later was taken to the next level during European romantic getaways. Riana spared almost none of the juicy details and tale-telling pictures of their sexcapade on her blogposts, sending all kinds of media in Indonesia into a wild tailspin that put corruption news pale in comparison.

Almost everyone nationwide got sucked into the scandal—following, commenting, opining, and everything in between. Riana brazenly rode on the hullabaloo by further employing Twitter and Instagram, sending both her fans and haters just a notch short of indecent hysteria. As if refusing to be overshadowed, Zulfikar’s supposedly official girlfriend decided to fire back by posting their own lovey-dovey snapshots on her social media pages—refueling the already heated rumor mill, prompting snaps from Riana and snazzier comments from the spectators. I’m not sure what’s the progress of the supposed military investigation in response to Riana’s report, but what I observe astutely is such drama the scandal has steadily supplied into the public discourse that even some of the levelheaded people I knew were reduced into good ol’ gossipy grandmas over this mess.

Not to be outdone by romance on social media wars, was commerce. Earlier this year a man sent Indonesian Facebookers and Twitterati into a fizz by claiming that the prominent online retailer Lazada sent him a boxed soap instead of the fancy smartphone he’d ordered and paid for.

As Lazada was scrambling to provide proper response, and I must say they did seem rather unprepared in the PR department at that time, somebody decided to search around and discovered on LinkedIn that the claimant was working for Lazada’s competitor Elevenia. Soon everyone, who’d just been wagging their tongues on Lazada, started wagging tongues back at the man. Initiated, spread, rebuked and closed all on social media in such efficient spinning cycle that honestly not many remember how the dispute was settled, it was just that it was eventually settled.

Scandals unfurled on social media have also given room to the rise of creativity called meme. Within hours, sometimes mere minutes, somebody would put together a visual and text appropriate to cast a light upon, usually in humorous tone, which would travel virtually alongside the news and, often, depending on its accuracy and wittiness, might boast more lifespan than the actual scandal.

We’re all gradually moving onto digital lifestyle whether we like it or not, whether we’re ready for it or not. Once we or someone else put an issue out there on digital realm, it’s practically unstoppable until it runs its course and technically un-retrievable ever. The challenge for individuals is to maintain a semblance of willpower on allowing one’s own life parlayed onto our social media presence. The challenge for corporations and PR firms is to prepare media-savvy response to produce in lightning-time manner before a snag brews into some uncontainable maelstrom. The challenge for mainstream media is to prove that beyond speed there are journalistic accuracy and ethics remaining on the news reporting delivery.

Gird your loins for 2016, baby! It’s a braver, ever-engulfing, all-consuming world out there by every histrionic digital minute of it.

As published:

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