Social media is a nightmare. It's the realm of trolls, homophobic comments, and some of the most blatant misogyny I've ever seen. Without warning, a single tweet can start a whole Twitter War. One unpopular opinion can turn your Facebook into a weeks-long screaming match.
But social media is especially hard when it's you're job. I'm talking about Indonesia's social media admins, the people we call the "mimin," who are stuck dealing with the worst the internet has to offer at least eight hours a day, five days a week. No one in Indonesia consistently gets more hate than the poor beleaguered mimin.
Just think about it, if anyone else starts getting attacked by pseudo-intellectuals, grammar Nazis, social justice warriors, et cetera online, we can just delete the offending post, suspend the account, or turn off notifications until it all calms back down. But what if you can't? What if social media was your job? How do you deal with it all?
Indonesia's mimin have it even worse because they are the only people readers feel comfortable attacking when they don't like something in an article or video. No one is going to message me directly if this story pisses them off. The mimin is going to take the heat. This is how it always goes in Indonesia. There's a typo in the story? The mimin's an idiot. The story is about Ahok? The mimin's a kafir. The story is translated from an office abroad? The mimin's trying to trick us. The reaction is nuts.
Mimin aren't supposed to talk back. But what if they could?
Echa, mimin at VICE Indonesia
VICE: What kind of stuff do our readers say about you?
Echa: I've been called a kafir, an LGBT supporter, a political propagandist, and a hipster-wannabe. The most baffling thing about people on the internet is that they comment on a story before they even read it. They're just provoked by the headline. I've been dealing with this stuff for years now, both on Twitter and Facebook, so I know better than to take it personally. I just laugh it off. As long as they click on the story—or even better share it with their friends—I am happy. I can take the abuse.
VICE: Is there anything you would like to say to them?
Echa: Before you write a long angry comment, read the whole story. All the way though. :))
Asti, mimin at Republika.co.id
VICE: What's the worst thing people have said to you, as the mimin?
Asti: Whenever any election is close to an end, people start to fanatically root for their favorite candidates. They say mean things if they see anything they disagree with. Sometimes, on the same post, some would accuse the mimin of endorsing a particular candidate while others accuse us for endorsing his or her opponent. This means people only read what they like, and they judge the political stance of the admin and media based on the one story. Had they read more stories and read each one more thoroughly, they would've seen that we also published the other sides of the story too. :"(
The internet also goes crazy about social media sweepstakes. If the winners are announced late, they blame the mimin! Why can't they understand that the admins are just following procedure, and that there's another division handling the sweepstakes. One time, they even called the admins out for 'being unfair' in the selection of the winner. Excuse me, but we're not the judges here.
VICE: Is there anything you want to tell the commenters?
Asti: Come on, people, let's be a bit smarter about this. If you find a story that isn't exactly your cup of tea, or if it's not promoting your personal values and ideology… just take a breath. That may just be one story. Try reading the other stories we've published. And bear in mind that many people are involved in every single story, from the sources, to the reporter, the writer, and the editors. Social media admins have least to do with the actual content of the story. So why blame us? :(
Yudi, mimin at Merdeka.com
VICE: What's the worst kind of abuse you need to deal with as a social media admin?
Yudi: One of the worst is being accused of sucking up to certain political figures. Some people think our stories aren't balanced. It happened a lot during the last Jakarta gubernatorial election. They even threatened to track down the admins and set fire to our homes. Haha. I used to be really scared when I first started working as a mimin. But now people's comments online are just something we joke about during our lunch break. I know better than to engage, but I'll be honest, sometimes I stalk out their social media accounts. You know… just for laughs.
VICE: Is there anything you want to tell them?
Yudi: Don't be so grumpy. I'm just doing my job here. :)
Annisa, mimin at Tribunnews.com
VICE: Could you tell me about some of the worst abuse you dealt with online?
Annisa: I remember this one time when there was a drug raid by the police at a club somewhere. A celebrity couple was there, so they were checked by the police. Our reporter was also there.
Later, we published a story about the celebrity couple being checked by the police. The couple was pretty upset and they lashed out about it on their Instagram. In an instant, their fans were attacking the Tribunnews Instagram.
It was the only time our Insta account got that much engagement. At first, I was happy with the constant notification beeps. But then I read all those horrible comments :( They told us that they wanted us to die. They told us to go to hell… the Jahannam hell too. That's the worst kind of hell.
We also have it hard every time there's a social media sweepstakes. People send us all these messages and attack us on our personal social media accounts. All they want to know is when are we going to announce the winners? That's why I no longer put my job title on my personal social media profile—except maybe on Linkedin. I don't want to deal the terror of all these questions.
VICE: What would you like to say back to them?
Annisa: Thanks for the feedback, but can you please not tell us to go to hell? I haven't reached my peak yet :(
Oh, and if you want more 'positive news' then help it go viral. Spread it. Engage with the 'good news' and you'll see more of it. :)
Fifa, mimin at Tirto.id
VICE: What's the worst part of your job?
Fifa: Reading comments like 'the mimin's a kafir,' or a 'commie' or being asked 'what's your religion' almost every day. Sometimes it quickly escalates and people are wishing that my mother was dead. Someone once told me, 'I hope that one day, when you have a child, they'll be LGBT.' That one made me laugh so hard. It really made my day.
I try to keep it professional. But I'm just human. My heart isn't made of coconut shell. There are times where you're having a bad day, or you're just physically not well, and it's really hard not to let it get to you.
It's especially hard since I'm trying my best. I come to work, read dozens of stories every single day, and try to be fair—because the stories have to be based on facts and numbers—and you have to avoid typos! But in the end it doesn't matter because 'EVERYTHING IS MIMIN'S FAULT' or 'EVERYTHING IS A HOAX.' If people only knew how hard my colleagues work, especially the researchers.
At first, I wondered why life is dark. Why can't people tell the difference between the social media admins and the journalists who write the story. I mean, I'm just the messenger here, don't kill the messenger. But on the other hand, I get it. Social media is a news site's facade, sort of. And we're the ones 'bringing' news to the readers. Not all our readers are willing to read a long story thoroughly. All they know is whatever we post on social media, so it's on the admins. They can and do say whatever they want. But amidst all the blunders, there is still important feedback from readers.
In the end, my attitude varies from feeling sorry for them to understanding them. I mean, maybe they don't have access to all the information. But whenever I'm feeling stuck, I make use of the one skill I'm very proud of: the power of ignorance. At the end of the day, my work doesn't define me.
VICE: Anything you want to say back?
Fifi: Take a chill pill, people. Take a cigarette break~