In Indonesia, expressions of hatred on Twitter are initially understood as a manifestation of freedom of speech in the current democratic era. Subsequently, such expressions have been exploited as a means of conducting a smear campaign during Indonesia’s 2012 Regional Election, 2014 Presidential Election, and 2017 Jakarta Gubernatorial Election. This study found that various hate speeches regarding politics and religious beliefs on Twitter may have instigated twitwars due to three factors: first, an issue or phenomenon bearing controversial content(s); second, an opinion provoking or containing expressions of hatred; third, two individuals or groups with dissenting interests, positions, and political choices in real life. Furthermore, the main finding of this study indicates that expressions of hatred, twitwars on Twitter, and excessive activities on other social media platforms may form a spiral of anxiety among netizens. Such anxiety may affect netizens actively engrossed in social media or even those who passively use them. A spiral of anxiety begins when anxiety is experienced by an individual due to the overwhelming surge of hate expressions on Twitter and other social media. This personal anxiety gradually expands into group anxiety, intergroup anxiety, and ultimately, communal anxiety. The study’s findings may, consequently, have implications on the shifting of the social construct as a result of social media activities. There may also be implications on regulations relating to freedom of expression in democratic countries. Thus, subsequent studies can further explore how social construct is formed based on social media activities or how freedom of speech on social media may threaten democracy. Research data were acquired through in-depth interviews with four netizens actively engaged as opinion leaders on Twitter (minimum criteria: posted at least 20 statuses daily, have a minimum of 5,000 followers, and have been involved in a twitwar containing expressions of hatred), and reviews of literature relevant to the study.
Keywords: expression of hatred, Twitter, spiral of anxiety, social media, twitwar