If you think true love is dead, think again.
From Indonesia, we have the happy news that two Alaskan Malamutes named Jojo and Luna were married in an opulent wedding ceremony at a mall in Jakarta last Friday, wearing traditional Javanese costumes alongside their owners.
But true love does not come cheap.
The ceremony reportedly cost $13,350, and a social media uproar predictably followed, with Indonesian citizens on Twitter being particularly critical of the canine nuptials and accusing the owners of “social blindness.”
“It’s wasting money and defying God. Common sense has gone, trampled by the desire to show off,” one Twitter user said, while another accused the owners of “unnecessarily wasting their wealth,” saying that they should have helped people in need instead.
The backlash led to the owners, Valentina Chandra and Indira Ratnasari, apologizing for the stunt which they claimed had been conceived as a way of promoting Javanese culture.
“Perhaps this is the only time a furry child in Indonesia gets married using Indonesian cultural customs. Without insulting or disrespecting Indonesian culture, we are proud,” Valentina said.
Who is amused?
To be sure, the money could have been better spent elsewhere. Just last week, this column featured the grim tale of an Indonesian father who, due to a lack of funds for a burial, stored his stillborn child in a freezer box.
Yet in reality, it is unlikely that the funds for the dog wedding would have been spent on writing a check to a struggling orphanage, or feeding the homeless, or any number of more “worthy” causes (which are highly subjective anyway and similarly mired in the potential for controversy), had it not been earmarked for Jojo and Luna.
There is also a question about what constitutes a “media firestorm” and who gets to decide what is controversial and demanding of a groveling public apology.
While social media “commentators” on Indonesian Twitter were aflame, they can hardly be considered representative of the general mood across the archipelago.
The social media site, now owned by Elon Musk and rebranded as X, reportedly has some 24 million users in Indonesia out of a population of over 270 million. Of those users, it is thought that around 76 percent are based in Java, making the social media site a highly localized snapshot of the national consciousness.
Twitter has also long had a reputation, worldwide, for being the social media of choice of journalists who regularly source stories from the site, which also begs the question about which issues get picked up and which do not, and the relative value that “viral” stories may hold for the average reader.
According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, more than nine-in-ten journalists in the United States (94 percent) use social media for their jobs as reporters, editors and others working in the news industry, but the sites that journalists use most frequently differ from those that the public turns to for news.
Among journalists in the U.S., Twitter is the most favored source, with 69 percent using it as their first or second choice for work-related tasks.
While the example of Jojo and Luna’s big day may be ridiculous rather than sublime, how social media shapes journalism becomes more important when it is used as a tool to check the collective pulse around national events such as elections – the obvious example being the outpouring of online incredulity when Donald Trump was elected president, despite the fact that many Americans clearly like him very much.
In February next year, Indonesians will similarly go to the polls to elect a new president, and the impact that social media may have in the election process is yet to be seen, although social media sites have long been used to influence public opinion in Indonesia.
In the coming months, viral controversies around the election and candidates may similarly skew a false image of the national mood, as they did in the U.S., leading to a result that blindsides the relatively small percentage of Indonesians who use Twitter and the journalists who follow them.
If we can take anything away from Jojo and Luna’s special day, it is perhaps to wonder the extent to which Twitter is really reflective of how the average Indonesian views the world, and whether anyone really cares about the betrothed Alaskan Malamutes.
When all is said and done, and the media firestorm dies down, is it really so wrong for two dogs to get married?