Write a story, publish it, and try and get as many Facebook ‘like’s. I know that iTunes store has about 23 million likes, but try and get 1000 for your own story, and see how challenging it can be.
When you take the ‘like’ button off the screen, and press it in real life, with face to face interaction, the dimensions expand exponentially. There should be a warning clause: caution, this can be addictive!
I had been contributing to travel web site. The editor sent out an email to all contributors announcing a competition. He said the person who got the most Facebook “likes” for their story would get an Pad 2.
Over the weeks I had asked fellow travelers who were staying at the same back packers in Perth to click the ‘Like’ button on a story I wrote on sky diving , which focused on a few of the lads who I was sharing a room with. It went like this. “Can you click like on my story?”
Sure, they’d reply.
Travelers are pretty relaxed people as a rule. They’d click the like button on my story, and it would then be posted on their Facebook accounts. I’d usually ask them to do it on my Macbook. Very few objected. This was how I was going to get 1000 likes. You just couldn’t trust people to log into their Facebook accounts later, by that time they would have forgotten. My method worked, and I’d be testing it out in Indonesia, where there were potentially 250 million likes I could get.
I had booked a ticket to Bali. A long winter in Perth, good bye.
I’m soaking up rays and ‘sukas’. In Bali I wasted little time. I needed a Facebook ‘sukas’, which is ‘like’ in Bahasa. I had asked for hundreds of ‘sukas’ from Indonesians and they willingly gave them to me. My like count was around 230 but fell far short of the 1000 I needed to actually win an Pad 2. That was my bench mark. The leader was a Canadian who wrote a story on dog sledding.
It seemed she had the backing of the whole Canadian Tourism Industry while I was doing it alone. To get my like counts up, I would physically ask people to log into their Facebook on my Mac Book and click the like button on my story which was then posted onto their wall. It worked very well. It seemed the only way to get numbers, and fast. I’d also solicit ‘like’s online, and that also proved bountiful.
A high yielding location in Bali, was at this one particular Circle K on the beach in Kuta; a place where all the hospitality staff went to unwind after after 2 am when they finished their shifts.
I would go around from table to table and begin with: “Excuse me, can you please help the crazy bule (foreigner)?” As I found, Indonesians are always helpful and found this bule to be a bit bold and funny.
I was just downright embarrassed. To get the courage to ask people this odd request required lots of inner resources. You didn’t get ‘like’s by being passive. Once I was up and running, the ‘likes’ came in steady and strong.
Every “ suka” (like) I got, I would ask their names and we’d have a nice little chat. Most time they’d put a Bintang in front of me. One night some local Balinese came up to me with a bottle of Tequila. A few ‘likes’ and shots later, I was almost under the table. But that didn’t stop me asking fresh Indonesian customers who stopped off at Circle K for one last drink for more likes. And one group of party goers invited me to the Sky Garden. It was nearly 3 am. I was tanked up and ready for it.
The Sky Garden , it’s a zoo for foreigners and many freelancers of the night. I had heard about it from a German back packer in Perth. It didn’t take me long to find one Indonesian floating around. She wasn’t getting on too well with another Australian. “You can have her,” he said. But I didn’t have much cash to buy drinks. And she didn’t give me the ‘suka’ I was craving. However, having a wanita plaything for the night, with curves from a Buddhist stupa was very tempting.
On another day, I had pestered these two single women from Jakarta outside a Circle K by the beach in Kuta. The bigger woman, dressed in a sarong, refused. She didn’t feel comfortable logging into my computer and then opening up her Facebook account to click like on my article. And I didn’t blame her. But at this stage I was out of control with my ‘suka’ instincts, and got bolder and bolder.
She was surprisingly the only Indonesian who refused. She bought a few beers, and was walking out the door of Circle K when she slipped. The beer bottle broke, and cut her upper eye. She wasn’t that badly hurt but blood was streaming down her face.
She was in shock, and clung onto the broken neck of her Heineken. I eased it out of her hand, gently. I asked a few locals. One Indonesian guy took off his shirt, which I wrapped around her head to reduce the bleeding.
Her friend eventually drove her to the hospital. She wasn’t dying. But I did feel bad for pestering her. I believe she got flustered because of me, which precipitated her slip on the wet floor. Or maybe she was drunk and it was going to happen any way.
Another Indonesian man was so impressed with the skydiving story, that he had his wife take a picture of me with him, saying, “He’s the sky diver!”
In Bali, I managed to get another 200 likes, which really put me close to the lead. But Sarah Sekula’s ‘likes’ were still way ahead of me. I wasn’t deterred. I still had a few tricks up my sleeve.
Another big session on Arak (Indonesian rice moonshine) I decide to skip Bali for Jakarta. A change of wall paper, and more ‘suka’s. That morning I had a horrible hangover so decided to get a flight to Jakarta.I was very depressed. My room, which I thought was a bargain, was starting to bug me. That cock roach I killed a few days away refused to be flushed down the toilet – the toilet refused to flush – a constant reminder that I was in a dive.
I walked to Circle K down by the beach and surfed off their wi fi an bought a flight to Jakarta for that afternoon on my Air Asia app. I was offered tours of the island. “Only 400 000 and I take you every where.” I couldn’t be angry at these Balinese trying to make a living. I was in a supplicating mood. And I knew that Margot Hotel, with its air con and HBO and room service. It was only an hour and half away flight away and an oasis and a welcome relief from the tourism over-kill of Bali.
It was this time, while spending my Sunday in Old Jakarta, I met Ali at the Batvaria. It’s an old colonial Dutch building turned into a trendy haunt for the well-heeled. I had been sight-seeing the old part of Jakarta, and on an off-chance, walked inside to charge my lap top and have a beer. Next to me was a distinguished Indonesian couple. In the prime of their lives, they were charging their gadgets too and drinking ice tea.
Opulence is the best word to describe it. Outside, the circus enthralled. Inside, it’s a visit to the colonial past. Only these days, the rulers are the Indonesians themselves. The prices are rude. The foreigners coming here are well healed. What was I doing here?
It is a welcome respite from the madness outside. The first Heineken is going down well. But I need to charge my lap top. The couple next to me, on the couch, are also using the sockets to charge their iPads and other gadgets. I’ve got no shame, and break the ice.
The first thing I asked him was if he had Facebook, then I went through the ritual of getting my ‘suka’. I was surprised to find that he was a journalist himself, and our friendship began from there. So if you are bored and need to spice up your life, just ask a stranger on the street, “Do you have Facebook?” It works all the time!
At the time, I had no idea that he was an active blogger, and Social Networking junky and a very influential person in Indonesian society. He clicked like on my story on parachuting in Perth, in Western Australia, and even let a comment. I told him that I had never jumped, but the story was too good not to write-up.
That’s when he told me he was a journalist. And we exchanged details. We have been in constant contact ever since. He’s been invaluable in offering me advice for places to go, and people to meet. He is a cross culture expert after all.
I met an Indonesian who was selling elephant tasks to the former President, Megawatt, in Jalan Jaksa. His daughter gave me a like. The next day I met him, he asked me up to his room for a hit of green smoke. I knocked him back. The following day, in Memory, I met him again. He was pissed. His mates, Indonesians from Aceh, were making fun of me and my ‘suka’.
His name,was Mohammed and he wanted me to pay his bar tab. He had a hooker on his arm. Things were now getting nasty. “Why are you always looking at your phone! he asked.
It was time to get a flight to Jogyjakarta, and see the temples there – and escape this mad man who was never going to sell elephant tasks to Megawatti.
I found hanging out at mini marts on Malbora street, the back packer area of Jogyjakarta, the best place to meet locals and foreigners and work my “Facebook” magic. One particular couple stand out. He was an American, and his Singaporean girl friend whose father was Indonesian. They went along with my charade. And for the next hour, hanging out on the main minimart on Jalan Marlboro, they encouraged me to ask every one who went through the doors. At this stage, I had left Bali, and flew out of Jakarta after a week, to Jogjakarta.
One night I met some young Indonesian men selling stuff on the busy street. Out of desperation, I sat with them. They were drinking arak. One thing led to another.
I remember getting about 30 likes that night. And not much else. People and things entered my vision that night. A police officer. My broken flip-flop, a curse, a place with ojek drivers. The street sellers who gave me that liquid poison. I woke up the next morning. I don’t even know how I got home. The staff at the hotel told me that the tourist police escorted me home. “They went to every hotel on Marlboro street until they found where you were staying,” they explained to me. I looked for my i phone. It wasn’t there. But I still had my Mac Book.
On the recommendation of one of the staff, we text the person to my phone, saying in Indonesian that we’d offer a reward if they returned it. Half an hour later, they turn up at my hotel. I paid them 200 000 and thanked them. They weren’t happy with that, and wanted more money. Hay guys, it’s my iPhone, and I paid for all the booze last night. They didn’t get that part.
This place proved fertile for likes. I even went to Mac Donald’s and annoyed customers there. I’d order KFC at four in the morning, and got the person serving me to log into my computer and click the like button. What had I become? Wasn’t I taking this a bit far?
Many people on twitter thought so. But Q Bar, a night club in Bangkok, was very supportive. They tweeted for all their followers to help me reach that grand. I was touched. I wasn’t alone on this.
There were detractors as well. I got scorn from others. “How can you get 1000 likes, when you only got 300 followers.” I wasn’t concerned. Another said, “Why don’t’ you buy your own iPad.” That guy missed the point totally.
I was going to accomplish the impossible with the help of an Indonesian student I had met on Twitter. Once he came aboard, we were going to rule the ‘suka’ roost. Ben is a student from Malang, an English Major, and he caught onto the playfulness of this game pretty early on. He’s also a travel writer. I met him through an American celebrity here in Indonesia, Jason Daniels, who also gave me a ‘like’ when we met at Memory Bar in Jakarta.
Ben, through sheer grit and determination, went on the streets of his University campus, and got me over 200 ‘like’s.
I was now up into the high 800. Sure, I was getting tired. Most nights I’d return to my room just before dawn. I found hitting the mini marts at this time of the night a bonanza with the students who would wind down and drink with their friends.
I also went onto dating sites soliciting likes, and annoyed all my friends on Twitter and Facebook. I was taking a leaf out of Ben’s motto, and it was working.
It was a mad capped idea, but also a great way to get out there and meet the people. Most nights you could see me hanging outside minimarts and clubs, and asking the drunk Indonesian and foreigners for a like. Not many people told me to fuck off. Actually no one told me to fuck off. Indonesia is a nation wired to Facebook, and they like nothing more than adding a bule to their list.
I had about 30 likes to go. Ben was my moral support unit and made sure we got the rest. At 999, the figures looked big. At 1000, it was registered with ‘1k’. The number seemed so small.
I’m not sure who clicked the 1000th like, but I’d be curious and I thank you very much. You deserve the iPad!
Indonesia never fails to surprise and amaze even the most jaded visitor.
Play the ‘suka’ game, and see where it takes you. But watch out for that devil’s water!
Done, and dusted.I never did get that iPad. But I got so much more.
Special Thanks: I want to thank Cheche Vaga , a student at jokja, Yogyakarta, Indonesia who took the picture of me! Big Thanks!