We're More Divided Than Ever Before
Ilustrasi oleh Dini Lestari


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Trying Times

We're More Divided Than Ever Before

Indonesia's increasingly heated politics are driving people with different view points apart. Is there any way to pull us back together?

Indonesia's motto may be "unity in diversity," but we're pretty divided today. Maybe it's just a symptom of living in today's always-connected world. Fake news plays to the worst sides of us all, reinforcing our entrenched viewpoints with bits of fake information that just seem too good to check.

Then we're out in the real world, arguing with friends, family, and co-workers about some stuff we read online. We've all never before had so much information right at our fingertips—and it's split us farther apart instead of bringing us closer together.


In the past, your friends would typically keep their political views to themselves or to a small crew of like-minded individuals. Now everyone feels like they need to tell the world what they think of every single event. It's no surprise people get fired up and smash the unfollow button.

If someone did a survey of failed friendships after the 2014 presidential election and the 2017 Jakarta election, I bet you politics would be at the top of a list of reasons why.

So what are we all supposed to do? Should we give in and join the fight? Or should we try to meet people half way and understand their points of view? VICE's Indonesia office, with the help of Guinness, spoke with some people who tried to do exactly that.


VICE: You must have gotten into plenty of arguments over political differences. How does it affect you IRL? Did you ever get in an argument IRL?
Arman Dhani: Obviously things get a little awkward whenever we meet IRL. Usually the fights are about political preferences and principles. For example, whether or not you're pro-choice. Or about fundamental things like human rights. There are those who think that in order to solve a problem in Indonesia, capital punishment is necessary. I can't find a middle ground with these people. So we just keep our distance. I've broken up with some friends, too, but usually they're my friends from the elementary school, or SMP, or SMA, or college. So we weren't exactly best buddies to begin with.

So the IRL fights you usually get into with your friends are about politics?
Well, for example, in 2014, some people said, 'Indonesia must be ruled by the military.' They thought a firm leader could improve our country. But in my opinion, civilians are better. We agreed to disagree. I learned not to force my view on others because we don't know how people came to form their opinions. People on the internet judge based on what someone posted. But that shouldn't be the parameter.


How do you try to make people listen to you side? Is there a middle ground you're trying to find?
I'm not sure. When people already have a stance, it's be hard to convert them. So on social media my approach is not to convince someone that they're wrong. When I'm having a fight on Twitter or when I write a post on Facebook, I don't try to convert people who hold opposing views. Instead, I write it for those who don't have yet a stance, so they can take my side.

Have you ever been confronted by someone due to differences in opinion?
Some of my friends actively disagree with me. They reject my opinions because they're more conservative than me. For example, I support a woman's rights to have an abortion, but they think abortion is a sin.

When I use rational reasoning and the other person uses religious reasoning, then we will never see eye to eye. But that's okay. I chose to just ignore it because, man, I've been friends with this person since elementary school. I don't want us to hate each other just because of a difference of opinion.

So at some point, I chose not to respond, because I didn't want to lose my longtime friend, no matter how conservative and stupid they might be, because I know they don't have any ill will. Perhaps they just happened to be raised in a more conservative environment. We can choose our battles. We don't have to take every argument personally.

Is it possible to create a safe space for two people with opposite points of view to have a conversation?
It's totally possible. On social media, we only respond to someone's writing. If you want to create a warmer and more neutral environment, then you have to meet that person in real life and actually talk to them.


Some people don't have the same access to information that we do. We also don't know why they ended up thinking the way they do. So if you want to understand multiple perspectives on an issue, you have to meet up in-person and talk it out. Can we agree to disagree? Of course, it's a matter of whether we want to or not.


VICE: Have you ever unfollowed or unfriended someone on social media because of their views?
Amar Albana: During the last presidential election, I was rooting for Prabowo and a friend of mine was a supporter of Jokowi. We were in the same motorbike club. We would share articles that vilified each other's candidate. We got into arguments a few times. He got pissed, unfriended, and then blocked me. I was 19 at the time. He was 57.

You broke up with your friend over political differences. In retrospect, was it worth it? Which one is more important, keeping a friend or winning a political argument?
In retrospect, it wasn't worth it. I lost a friend and gained nothing.

But do you think it's normal that some of us prefer the losing the friend?
Hmmm… I mean, it's everyone's right. Those who choose to hold onto their political views, they believe that they're rooting for the right leaders. And they probably think they can always make new friends.

Have you ever felt like you just want to unfriend someone solely because of their views on politics, religion, or social issues?
I would never do that, because I'd rather maintain my friendships. Whenever we come across some political differences, I just take it as news. Or I'd turn it into an inside joke among my friends. I would be more tolerant than someone who unfriends people, because I've stopped being so hard about politics. I don't want to look back on my social media posts in three years and feel embarrassed.


Did you ever stop talking to a friend or family member over their political views?
Well, during Lebaran, my family always does takbiran together. Since my family knows that I'm a journalist, they would ask me questions related to the governor's race. There's a relative who just couldn't accept my views. Every time I stated a fact, he said, 'No way!'

How do you respond?
I tell them what I know. I see how it goes. If they disagree, it's OK. I don't want to go on with some endless debate. I want a discussion, not a debate. It's not about winning. We can agree to disagree.