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Indonesia’s Trendy President

What’s the difference between a nationwide leader and a celebrity? Apparently the ice is too thin to be a border. Indonesia’s 2014 elect President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is not only a leader of the rich Southeast Asian archipelago but also a YouTube vlogger who shares not only presidential activities but also personal ones to thousands of subscribers.

Jokowi’s first ever YouTube video was published on May 27, 2016 – so, his channel has been running for a good 11 months now. With a total of 149 videos on his YouTube channel, Jokowi breaks away from vlogging conventions. Surely, he does not have the time (although he probably has the resources) to document ‘a day in the life’ video, daily. Instead, his videos range from a number of Q&A segments to some milestones in his presidential career.

The most popular video features Jokowi’s encounter with King Salman of Saudi Arabia during the King’s visit to Indonesia last March. In this video, Jokowi is seen adopting the conventional close up, selfie-vlogging style where he talks briefly about the event to his camera; its edit also resembles the typical fast-cuts, and also provides audience with both Indonesian and English subtitles. This video has gained the attention of netizens – the inhabitants of the online community – with nearly reaching 2 million views. Another one of Jokowi’s selfie-vlogging style videos is apparent in his heart-to-heart sharing session of his pet goats. In this vlog, Jokowi shares the birth of another 2 goats creating a total of 10 goats that he owns. With this video he took the opportunity to share the value he found in birth, “Birth is a grace from God. A grace and blessing that will be of significance for optimism in the future.” No wonder he’s so amusing to watch – he makes time to philosophize even the cutest occurrences. He is a fatherly figure to us all.

Jokowi’s other videos include a YouTube-style Q&A where he responds to video messages of people. You’ll see him answering each question amusingly with an iPad in hand and a killer bomber to finish off his hip look. You can tell by watching these videos alone that Jokowi’s efforts to blend with current trends do not come easy. For that reason, his efforts should indeed be acknowledged and appreciated.

“‘To be a good leader, you have to establish a great relationship with your citizens because a leader and his/her citizens are interdependent of each other.’”

Famous vloggers on YouTube often receive countless questions and gifts from their fans, and in return vloggers release weekly or monthly Q&A’s. We get to experience the same level of interaction with Jokowi as we do with YouTube vloggers – and let’s not forget about his role as president, which boosts the interactivity points to another thousand points, probably (forgive the exaggeration). This level of closeness that Jokowi is permitting to the public is just the kind of connection that a leader needs with his citizens in order to establish a mutual bond with each other. Indonesian vlogger Agung Hapsah certainly thinks this way from his two-day experience with Mr. President. In his video, Agung mentioned Jokowi’s lack of interest for tight security in order to shake hands with the public – where openness such as these can be considered a threat, Jokowi does not seem to care. Agung then adds, “To be a good leader, you have to establish a great relationship with your citizens because a leader and his/her citizens are interdependent of each other” (translated from Indonesian by yours truly).

Jokowi is without doubt one of Indonesia’s most unique president and it’s safe to say that he’s one of the hippest presidents in the world. The amount of instagram followers he has have even surpassed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s amount of followers. Mashable have also reported that Jokowi’s subscription popularity is based on his attempt at experimenting with different video styles, whether it be a 360 degrees video or a simple vlog on eating meatballs. All of this had led him to earn the Silver Play Button award – a Youtube award for gaining 100,000 subscribers.

So, the question remains: what’s the difference between a nationwide leader and a celebrity? Has Jokowi’s YouTube sensation created his celebrity image or is it just another one of his campaigns to gain successful public attention? some food for thought: must leaders become a sensationalist in order to keep their reigns ablaze?

Cover: Ahmad Syauki

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Neysa Azalia
Born and raised in Jakarta, Indonesia, Neysa aims to make the most of her experiences studying and residing 11,000 kilometres away from her country of birth. She enjoys creative storytelling through mostly visual and textual instruments.

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