From Panic to Confusion to Negotiation: Reflection from Early Response to Covid-19 in Indonesia


  • Setiadi Setiadi Department of Anthropology, Universitas Gadjah Mada
  • Elan Lazuardi Centre for Population and Policy Studies, Universitas Gadjah Mada


pandemic response, COVID-19, social media, internet, media


This article reflects on the response to the pandemic that emerged as it happened. We draw attention to the viral aspect of a pandemic, namely how people understand and respond to pandemics. We are questioning the context and reasons for what we call an 'immeasurable, but organized community response' to the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital-based research is applied through observing both mainstream digital media and other forms of social media. We have categorized the way people respond to COVID-19 via social media into three thematic phases. In the first phase, digital media was used to voice frustration and disappointment with the government's response. This has sparked public distrust of the government's ability to deal with the pandemic at the national level. In the second phase is confusion phase. The rise of public discussion about the pandemic shows that the public is concerned about the development of the COVID-19 news in the country. The last phase is negotiation phase. While COVID-19 is rapidly becoming a source of panic and confusion, grassroots initiatives are emerging. These initiatives aim to help reduce panic and reduce socio-economic impacts. Through this article, we have shown how, in times of crisis where traditional anthropological fieldwork is nearly impossible; anthropologists can still pay attention to social relations forged through social media. Methodologically, digital anthropology, or social media ethnography, is gaining momentum to be developed considering that fieldwork cannot be done in the pandemic era


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