How Strongly Can Social Media Influence and Control People’s Lives?

A photo of a phone screen showing various social media icons.

What comes to your mind when you hear the term “Social Media?" Perhaps some people thinking about the media that makes them able to meet and communicate with people around the world. While some others think about that, social media is the channel that gives them the chance to send and receive many information. Others think that social media is about the way we get many updates from people who we follow and maybe someone out there thinks social media is a part of a new marketing strategy.

Nowadays, social media seems like a big part of our life. When your friends didn’t reply to your text, you can greet them on Facebook. When you want to listen to music or see a music video from your favorite singer – go to YouTube. When you just wake up and open your eyes, you don’t have to walk outside to get the newspaper, just take your phone and scroll your Twitter timeline then you’ll get the information. Blog and Forum are also types of social media because they allow you to share “what you think” about articles, pictures, videos and so on. There is social media which allows the users not only to share about their profession, major of study, works and company, addresses, political views and religion, but also allow them to find a job and allow the company to find the employees. Everything looks and feels easier to do with social media.

But from the examples above, I have a question on my mind “If everything looks and feels easier to do with social media, isn't something strange if society is extremely dependent on social media. How strong can social media influence and control people’s lives?” This question leads me to recall a case that happened about 5 years ago.

Let me tell you a very interesting case from Indonesia about social media. In August 2008, there was a women who has known by Indonesian people as Prita Mulyasari. Her case begun when she wrote about her disappointment of the services of a Hospital in Jakarta. She told and wrote everything about the hospital and the bad services that she got from the doctors, nurses and administration staff. Then, she sent a message to her friends on the mailing list. Actually, she just tried to remind her friends to be more selective in choosing the hospital and to be more careful in accepting many kinds of services. But, her message became a big problem after her friend shared it to a website (the people’s forum) with so many read and commented about the issue.

In September 2008, the management of the hospital reported Prita Mulyasari for the bad news about the hospital that she has spread. The management of the hospital demanded her to pay a material loss of about Rp.161 million as a replacement for clarification in national newspapers and Rp.100 million for immaterial losses. She wasn’t only to pay for the hospital losses but she was also detained in May 2009. After 8 months she went through the inspection and verification process and was convicted by the court for violating the law about using the ICT (Information and Communication Technology). This case rapidly spread among Indonesian people. As common issues, there are always pros and cons. Although the Indonesian people weren’t justified what Prita has done against the hospital, but most of people in Indonesia really cared about her life and Prita’s condition and tried to help her, at least to pay the amercement.

The first Facebook account which made by some people is ( They were spreading “Bantu Bebaskan Prita” or “Help Free Prita” to Indonesian People and approached them to help Prita by collecting the coins. It didn’t take a long time. Many volunteers, social workers, activists, students and even artists came together to help her. They were collecting many coins from people on the street, office, and even an entertainment center. Some singers also held a charity concert to help her ( In December 2009, the campaign to help Prita was finished and they succeed by collecting the coins to help Prita raise about Rp. 825 Million. The money was extremely worth it for Prita, although she still had to go through the period of detainees. However, the money was very helpful for her not only to pay the amercement but also for her life, considering she has two kids.

I’m not trying to spread bad news about my country or discredit someone or some institutions. I am just trying to make you believe that social media has the strength to influence and control people’s lives. Prita’s case clearly explains to us that social media were able to make people’s life get worse or get better. But, we don’t need to stay away or being anti-social media. People are stronger than social media because we can easily think before we act and think before we speak. There is nothing to be worried about if we are wise when we share something on social media.