Marriage is seen as inevitable in Indonesian culture, with friends and family often putting pressure on young people to find a partner and settle down.
But one group of young people is fighting back, using social media to celebrate singlehood with laughter.
Jakarta Lonely Council (or Dewan Kesepian Jakarta) – a play on the name of a well-known independent art body Jakarta Art Council – has become a kind of Facebook haven for single people.
The group’s most popular posts are when they alter quotes from famous and prominent people to make memes related to single status, loneliness, and the feeling of longing for your ex.
“The compulsion of dating on Saturday night is a bourgeois conspiracy,” says one post. Another declares 14 February as Single Pride Day with the phrase: “Single, but proud.”
Indonesia’s first President Soekarno, a great Indonesian novelist Pramoedya Ananta Toer, and even world figures like Joseph Stalin, Friedrich Schiller, Oscar Wilde, and John F Kennedy have been featured.
“Rejected once is a tragedy; rejected a million times? That’s a statistic,” said one of its memes. It comes from Joseph Stalin’s “a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic”.
“Having a date is nothing special; what makes it great is only the interpretation of it,” said another, changing a famous quotes from Pramoedya Ananta Toer which originally said: “Life is simple; what makes it complicated are interpretations of it.”
They also post edited logos, turning Pizza Hut into “Pizza Hurt”, and puns such as “my hard disk is full of our memory, but my heart is empty without your name”, or “don’t ask when I will get married; ask what you can do for your country”.
‘Celibate for purpose’
One of the founders said the page was created two years ago for fun, because the members love making memes and wanted to laugh themselves.
“When we created the page, most of us were single. But now, one of us got married. How cruel is that?” said one of Jakarta Lonely Council’s initiator, who wanted to keep their identity anonymous.
The creators, mostly young people, come from different professions; one is a researcher, a writer, and a lecturer. They use “celibate for purpose” in many posts, to emphasise that being alone or single is a choice and there is nothing wrong with it.
Many users find the posts both hilarious and original.
“Being single is tough!” screams one user.
Some others even suggested their own quotes. “I have ex, therefore I am,” said Facebook user Edy Sembodo, tweaking Descartes’ famous quote.
But some have criticised the posts as rude and disrespectful. The posts that are related to current political issues often spark controversy.
On their Facebook page, Jakarta Lonely Council said the memes were not meant to mock famous people and their views. Instead, they want to laugh with them “as if they are alive and joking with us. We believe, with laugher, we can be more mature”.
Beyond the memes, the group also wants the page to be a celebration for single people. Being married or in a couple, they said, is not a necessity and being single is a choice.
They also criticised the social and cultural values that push single people to marry a man or women their parents think is right for them.
‘Don’t bully – advocate’
In Indonesia, religion plays a big part in relationships. Marriages between different religions are illegal and usually one partner has to change their religion in order to marry.
“We experienced how bitter it was to end a relationship because we date a man or woman who has different religion, ideology, or ethnicity,” said the Jakarta Lonely Council founder.
“Rather than bully the singles, we better advocate for them, right?”
Psychologist and lecturer at Bina Nusantara University Pingkan Rumondor, who is studying the effects of marriage pressure on young people, says there is a cultural view which sees marriage as a form of devotion to parents, and parents wants their kids to marry sooner because they think it brings prestige to the family.
“There is an impression that if you are single and unmarried, you are a loner, emotionally unstable and unable to act like a grown up,” Ms Rumondor says. “Religions also encourage people to build family and marry as soon as they are adequate – in terms of age, income, and education.”
Some of those perspectives need to be changed, she says.
“Parents should encourage their kids to start thinking about what his/her purpose in life. Instead of asking when you’ll be married, parents should ask ‘what is your plan in life?’, ‘can marriage help you to achieve it?'”