Balinese social media is filled with community aggregator accounts, who on so many different occasions have amplified breaking news and recent happenings across different issues. The timeliness of their posts have made them extremely popular in the community, and it’s no secret that people would often seek them out for the latest updates.
Curiously, as hospitals in Bali begin to fill up amid an alarming rise of COVID-19 cases and even with a brief oxygen crisis just last week, these accounts have largely been silent on the issue, almost as if nothing of the sort is taking place on the island. Accounts such as @punapibali, @denpasarnow, and @infobadung, who boast around 450,000 followers each, feature feeds practically barren of posts about COVID-19 issues.
Bali-based citizen journalism portal BaleBengong, arguably one of the more reliable community news sources in the province, said that the lack of attention for issues such as the oxygen crisis may have stemmed from ignorance. Since they mostly rely on information shared by their own followers as opposed to original reporting, they may have not been aware of what’s been transpiring on the ground.
“The other possibility is that they have reached a point where they don’t care anymore … because generally, psychologically speaking, the public in Bali are tired of COVID-19-related news,” BaleBengong editor Luh De Suriyani said.
“This is happening because Bali has experienced the worst in terms of the economy compared to other regions, as tourism has virtually died.”
Yesterday, a relatively smaller account, @overheardbali, which has around 21,000 followers, posted something related to the coronavirus crisis in Bali, specifically pointing to how hospitals have been filling up with COVID patients lately. Some users responded by sharing anecdotes of similar experiences, while others pointed out how the issue has virtually gone unmentioned by other popular accounts on Instagram.
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“Finally someone’s posting this. Because other Instagram [accounts] are posting stuff like nothing is happening in Bali, so a lot of our elders thought that the emergency is only in Java and Lampung,” one user commented.
“This is really happening and most of Bali’s Instagram news accounts share nothing and stay quite [sic],” another wrote.
Gus Dark, a Balinese illustrator whose work has largely been critical of the government and actively uses social media to promote his message, said that many issues in Bali “evaporate” before they can go beyond the island.
“It’s astounding how all the chatter surrounding Bali is very muted because Bali is a display of Indonesia. If there’s chaos in Bali it can be taken to mean that the rest of Indonesia is the same, and from a branding point of view that’s not good,” he said.
The economic impact of the pandemic, as Luh had also mentioned, has been so grave in Bali that many residents oppose tighter COVID-19 restrictions, which have arguably made it even more difficult to earn a living. Throughout the pandemic in Indonesia, many people are forced to choose between money and health, and perhaps the silence when it comes to the latter illustrates how some in Bali are consciously picking one over the other.
Official data and statements may not give us a full picture. And while anecdotes on social media also won’t, at least the latter could offer us another side of the story. Cherry-picking information, on the other hand, may hurt us all in the long run.
This article, Why aren’t Bali’s viral accounts posting about the escalating COVID crisis?, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia’s leading alternative media company.