Consortium of:

The Role of Social Media in the Process of Polarization Mitigation in Society

  August 23rd 2021

Dr. Dicky Sofjan, ICRS Core Doctoral Faculty

(Virtual Discussion by The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of The Republic of Indonesia and Siberkreasi)

Social media and the internet are unique contexts for the discourse of hospitality and hostility. Social, religious, and cultural virtues are mediated and operated within the instrumentalized social platform and digital technology that conflates rationality and emotional impulse, champions actors' performance and eloquence over their intentionality, and a fosters a friendly place for the creation of nano stories and nanopolitics for the “ordinary” actors to dealing with religious issues, hence complicating the position of traditional religious authorities (cf. Postill, 2014; Poststill and Epafras, 2018, p. 107). Furthermore, one characteristic that is easily recognized from Indonesia's social media is noisy if not rowdy, and pugnacious (Kaunang and Epafras, 2021). Therefore, digital literacy is crucial in the context of Indonesia. On June 16, 2021, The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology of The Republic of Indonesia held a virtual discussion with the topic “Friendly Da'wah on the Internet” in cooperation with Siberkreasi, a national movement to tackle the spread of negative content through the internet such as hoaxes, cyberbullying, and online radicalism. The movement aims to socialize digital literacy to various sectors, especially education, and also encourages people to actively participate in spreading positive content through the internet and be more productive in the digital world. This is a series of discussions as part of one big movement called ‘Indonesia Makin Cakap Digital’ (Indonesia is Getting More Competent in Digital World).

The Indonesian Consortium for Religious Studies (ICRS) contributed to this event through the presence of Dr. Dicky Sofjan, lecturer and core doctoral faculty of ICRS. Apart from Sofjan, there were three other speakers: Aan Anshori a diversity activist, Abd. Rahim a lecturer of KPI UIN Alauddin Makassar, and Andhika Fachrozi Muhadi, Co-Founder of The Agency ES & Frodigi Digital Agency. Sofjan focused his presentation on literacy in preaching in the digital world. Sofjan began by explaining the meaning of religious literacy. He argues that religious literacy is not a person's demand to learn about religion more deeply, but rather to learn about how to be religious, meaning that what is important is not only cognitive knowledge but how religion can influence life practices that are more moral and encourage respect for values. These values  include human values ​​so that tolerance and respect for other religious beliefs grows. In the end, religious literacy will also affect attitudes on social media. Furthermore, Sofjan explained that digital literacy and understanding of religious ways in cyberspace can mitigate the polarization in society resulting from the echo chamber effect. Sofjan strongly believes that religious leaders and their networks can spearhead the spread of religious values ​​that are peaceful, progressive, and following the ideals of the nation and state.

Aan Anshori presented the material "Utilizing the Internet to Spread Positive Content for Religious Leaders". In his presentation, anshori explained that preaching in the digital era does not only require a friendly attitude but every good preacher must first straighten his intentions and goals, for what he preaches on social media and the internet. This is very important because sometimes misleading da'wah can also be delivered by someone in a friendly way. Anshori concluded his presentation with an important statement "If we want to burn Indonesia with hatred, it can only be done with social media. But, is that the purpose of da'wah? Does da'wah aim to destroy? Of course not! Da'wah should invite people to goodness. As far as I know, da'wah is inviting, not forcing."

Andhika Fachrozi Muhadi, Co-Founder of The Agency ES & Frodigi Digital Agency delivered a presentation with the theme "Tips and the Importance of Healthy Internet". He explained that every posting of status or content on social media will become a digital footprint and this is difficult or even impossible to remove. A person’s digital footprint can influence one’s reputation, job prospects and career paths, and even social relationships. Finally, Abd Rahim, a lecturer in the Islamic Communication and Broadcasting Study Program (KPI) at the Muslim University of Indonesia also delivered important remarks under the title "Wisdom in the Comments Column". Abd Rahim argues that social media is like a double-edged sword, when it is used positively, the results will also be positive, and vice versa. Therefore, Abd. Rahim appealed to social media users to always be wise in their activities on social media, including in commenting. Abd. Rahim takes an interesting example. In terms of commenting on religious issues, for example, he argues that social media users should avoid the words majority and minority. Because this view will trap social media users in a narrow perception. In addition, Abd. Rahim also believes that the socialization of Law Number 11/2008 concerning Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) should also be promoted again so that the public will better understand the negative impacts and consequences on social media.