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Book Review: If I Stay

If I Stay is an Indonesian chick-lit – the first Indonesian book I read this year! I don’t read in Indonesian that well, but I will take up the challenge for special people. Last year I read Perempuan yang Dihapus Namanya (Women Whose Names Were Erased) by Avianti Armand, poet and also Cung’s (my second husband) partner in many architectural projects. This year, when Sherry, fellow co-founder of the Mad Tea Book Club sent me her novel, I decided to give it a go. Spoiler Alerts!

First of all, the structure of the book is so poetic, with titles inspired by musical terms and even excerpts of songs weaved into the narrative. You can tell this book is a project of love from the young author. She has even produced it into an indie film on her youtube channel.

Second, the premise is so relevant to this day and age. Karina is a high school girl who is in a happy relationship with her boyfriend Lintang. She also has an anonymous social media account by the name of snowfairy which has 18M followers on the platform called Art & Pages. These days many people of the younger generation go anonymous on social media to protect their identities. This would never have crossed my mind or anyone from my generation. We went on social media to connect with our friends – not to “disconnect”. How interesting. 

Phantom Stalkers

One day, one of Karina’s anonymous followers starts to stalk and send her threatening notes. Think Phantom of the Opera. He threatens her with one of her private secrets, and with that knowledge manipulates Karina to do things she does not want to do. As someone who has received hate speech on social media, I’ll tell you that this fear is real. It makes me rethink the model of influencers and personal branding.

So how do Karina, Lintang, and her friends (online and offline) deal with this phantom? Don’t worry, it’s an almost happy ending. If there is anything I can change, I’d wish for much heavier punishment for the stalker. For me, this is bordering harassment! I do wish our country has a better justice system, especially when it comes to cyber-harassment or bullying.

All in all, If I Stay was an enjoyable read. Thanks again to Sherry for sending me the book!

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How to Deal With Hate Speech on Social Media

I recently opened a TikTok account, to the great chagrin of my husband. Tiktok‘s platform is great in offering people easy access to creating awesome 1-minute clip videos. However, I drive him nuts whenever I’m editing the videos. There are only so many times that he can listen to a K-pop jingle.

Many people have said that TikTok is the fastest growing social media. Its algorithm is still quite good in comparison to other older platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest (you name them, I have them). Especially in the case of Facebook and Instagram where it’s now a “pay to get” platform – you have to pay to get followers, likes, comments, etc.

Viraling on TikTok

With TikTok, if you have a viral tune, trending hashtags, and relatively good content, then it’s easy to get thousands of views and reactions such as likes and comments. Two of my videos have gone viral just in this past month. The first one was on my speaking up against Asian American hate which reached 33K viewers. The other one was responding to the recent terrorist attack on a church in Makassar, Indonesia, on Palm Sunday (a religious Christian holiday). This video got 9K viewers and 200+ comments.

In the space of about two weeks, these 2 viral videos boosted my followers by an additional 300. That’s a huge lot!

However, I learned that with the coveted popularity comes the rot: hate speech. I won’t show them here because it will trigger all kinds of angry emotions. Instead I will share a few survival skills to implement in dealing with hate speech on social media.

Tips to Deal with the Hate Speech

First: Disengage. When the hate comments are pouring in (and sometimes you’ll get like 10 hate comments in 1 hour) it can be overwhelming. Disengage. Get off the app, let the algorithm play out, and you go take a rest or take a walk or do something else. I also did some box breathing so I didn’t panic. Only check back on the platform when you’re ready to take action to filter the comments.

Second: depending on how you want your channel to be, you can either filter and block the comments, reply to disagree or call out the hater, or simply let it be and see what happens. I did a mix of first and third. Some of the comments were so offensive I right away blocked the user and reported them to TikTok. I left the other comments which I thought were borderline but had a trace of a valid argument. Lo and behold, some people stepped up and started defending and speaking for me, which was so nice of them. I supported my defenders by liking their comments, and adding them as friends while ignoring the hating users.

Third: use it to your advantage. After the video cools down in its virality, and I’m much more in control of my emotions, I take a look at some of the arguments happening, screenshot it, and use it as content material on other platforms. My goal in doing this is to educate social media users to take a more active approach towards hate comments if they come across them. I want to encourage people to defend and speak up for users who are being bullied.

Speak up and defend users who are being bullied on social media.

The saddest thing about all of this is that hate speech is not just an online problem. It is also pervasive in our everyday lives. Learning how to deal with hateful comments and then using them as educational material to your advantage is being proactive, smart, and a responsible citizen of the internet.

Have you encountered hate speech on social media? How do you deal with it?