Until I came to Jakarta, social media was a foreign country for this bule. I only had one screen of applications on my phone, and I wasn’t cool.
My only social-media habit was Facebook posts. I enjoyed reconnecting with the oddballs who reappeared from my past and I enjoyed boasting about my holidays.
If I wanted to communicate, I phoned, messaged or emailed. Very occasionally I sent a letter. I lacked for nothing.
But I was wrong.
When I arrived in Jakarta, I assumed I would communicate as I had done in the past. It took a few days to realise I couldn’t contact anyone, then a few more days to realise no-one had any credit on their phones.
It was impossible to communicate with my work colleagues, the gas delivery man, the water delivery man, the real-estate agent, the car driver in Bali, the building manager, or anyone else I needed to speak to.
I needed WhatsApp. I couldn’t live without WhatsApp.
Now, I don’t use anything else for communicating with people in Indonesia.
But why hasn’t anyone told Australia?
Thanks to my Australian friends, I now have to deal with SMS messages, Messenger (including audio and video), Facebook, email, Skype, Zoom, and WhatsApp.
I’m losing track. Questions come in on Messenger and I reply on email. Some friends only use Facebook, others only use Messenger. My correspondence records are all over the place. I don’t know who I’ve replied to, where, or when.
I just want everyone in the world to stick to WhatsApp. Please. Like we do in Jakarta. Just not quite as much as we do in Jakarta.
Every morning, Jakarta, the second biggest city in the world suddenly becomes a WhatsApp village – the world’s largest virtual village. By 6am every morning, my household has received over 50 WhatsApp messages.
Indonesians are neighbourly, social, and gregarious. Give them a free communications channel, and they will communicate.
From the moment we wake at the first cry of the muezzin, we start talking to each other, and we don’t stop until we’re asleep. Actually, I think some of my friends WhatsApp in their sleep.
I don’t mean to be rude, but amongst the important information we share, there’s a fair bit of meaningless rubbish. I think of my WhatsApp messages like they’re a flock of birds: Here I am! Where are you? Oh good! How long? I’m still here! I’m thinking of you! Are you thinking about me? You are now!
To understand what people were talking about on WhatsApp, I had to add four more apps: Snapchat, TikTok, Instagram and YouTube.
Then, of course, life is impossible in Jakarta without Grab, OVO, Gojek, Zomato, Chope, Tokopedia, Traveloka, and AirVisual.
But then I also needed apps for BMKG, Lion Air, My First Media, Air Asia, My Blue Bird, RSPI Mobile, My Telkomsel, Sayurbox, and Hypermart Online.
Sorry, but if you don’t know what these are, you’re not cool.
I’m going insane. But I’m cool. I’m a local. Right?