Quantitative Study of the Cyber-Nationalism Spreading on Twitter with Hashtag Indonesia and Malaysia using Social Network Analysis

© Media Watch 12 (1) 161-171, 2021
ISSN 0976-0911 | E-ISSN 2249-8818
DOI: 10.15655/mw/2021/v12i1/205465


Quantitative Study of the Cyber-Nationalism Spreading on
Twitter with Hashtag Indonesia and Malaysia using Social Network Analysis


Dewi Kartika Sari1, Jamilah Ahmad2, Putri Hergianasari3, Pratiwi Cristin Harnita4, Nur Aji Wibowo5
1,3,4,5Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, Indonesia
2Universiti Sains Malaysia, Malaysia


Received: 13 September 2020| Accepted: 8 January 2021|Published: 9 January 2021




This article explores how nationalism is expressed on Twitter by the Malaysian and Indonesian young generation.  Twitter has a hashtag feature, which is one of the trends popular among youths. This research investigates the patterned network behavior in Twitter among the Malaysians and Indonesians on cyber-nationalism through quantitative measurement of the connection patterns among users, information deployment, and coverage-network distance. This analysis was performed utilizing the social network analysis method, employing the NodeXL Pro software as a data collecting engine. The data were collected a day after the badminton tournament was held in Malaysia to optimize the data quality. The three network metrics levels were used to quantify their behavior, i.e., the overall network, the basic, and the advanced vertex metric. 


Keywords: Cyber-nationalism, Indonesia, Malaysia, social network analysis, Twitter




Nationality is a significant paradigm of national identity; thus, nationalism is an influential character of an individual group with a national political identity. According to Berns (1997), nationalism defines as a sense of pride and love and sacrifice for the country. Abdullah stated that nationalism is typically not built on ideology. It is an elemental connection to a zone with a sentiment of belonging and a sense of identity, besides a full love essence for their homeland (Abdullah, 2005). However, to build a nation with a high spirit of nationalism among citizens involves an agreement of struggle and sacrifice to realize the aim as a whole, and freedom is the top for reaching the nationalistic spirit among the citizens.

                Evans and Newnham (1998) stated that nationalism could be utilized as a part of two senses. The first part is nationalism attempts to differentiate a behavioral part, which makes the country and the parts on particular social-political purposes for the profit. The second part of nationalism is a view of commitment to the country, which is the identical attitude owned by the individuals. Besides, nationalism is an enthusiasm, rationale, optimism and renewal, endurance, sacrifice, voluntary, and country love (Muslim & Alias, 2004). 

Thus, in the Malaysian context, nationalism is to be practiced by several levels and values such as pride as Malaysia, including the king and the country leaders, and respect the state symbols, anthem, flag, and state arms coat. The spirit of nationalism and patriotism is vital for the multiracial society to live harmoniously despite the vast differences in culture and religious beliefs in Malaysia. All communities in Malaysia must contribute to revitalizing patriotism for the sake of national prosperity. Thus, the spirits need to be cultivated in the younger generation. In the Indonesian context, nationalism is pride. It includes preserving the country’s honor and its leaders and respects the state symbols, emblem, flag, anthem, and official national motto “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” or “Unity in Diversity.” 

After independence, there have been various efforts to develop Malaysia economically, politically, and socially. There are still some issues and challenges. In Malaysia, the young generation has a lack of sense of patriotism. Young age has a shallow patriotic spirit since this is a norm among them born after independence (Mohamed, Sulaiman, Othman, Che Jumaat Yang, & Haron, 2011). Indonesia also experiences the same phenomenon, facing nationalism issues among its citizens, reflected in some social media group discussions. The low spirit of nationalism among the Malaysian and Indonesian young people makes patriotism a global matter. 

                The Star newspaper reported that Malaysians have a weak spirit of nationalism than Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. These countries had succeeded with a strong core of nationalism. The nationalism of Thais and Indonesians was more substantial than Malaysians (The Star, 2010). According to Abdullah (2007), if nationalism is a country’s superiority, then patriotism is a love for the country. So, as different races and ethnicities exist in Malaysia, citizens need more effort to patriotism.

                The idealism of love for a country can be translated in many ways. Based on the study by Brown, Billings, Schallhorn, Schramm, and Devlin (2016), patriotism affects the spectators of mega-sporting events. This study examines how patriotism spirit rises among citizens in mega-sporting affairs. Druckman stated that patriotism could be the emotional linking and attachment of the audience to their nation and their willingness to support their national representation (Druckman, 1994). When national teams represent their respective countries, patriotism is an imperative aspect influencing the decision-making process and subsequent behavior.  Therefore, concerning the perspective on nationalism, especially among youth, this research expands the direction towards the social media platform, Twitter, on nationalism in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Setiawan (2018) cites the Association of Internet Service Providers in Indonesia. The number of Internet users in the country was 143.26 million in 2018, while 49.53% belong to the 19 to 34 age group in Indonesia. The Internet users were aged between 13 and 18. Twitter use by people, journalists, politicians, and government officials allows feedback as a democratic conversational tool in Indonesia. Twitter users in the country are frequently trending on global issues with hashtags on specific matters. Similarly, there is an increasing trend of Twitter usage in Malaysia. 


Literature Review


Nation and Nationalism


Bond (2009) stated that nationalism is primarily a political principle that holds the political and national unity harmonious. He analyzed nationalism from a historical perspective of humanity and culminating in modernity. Modernity, in turn, is related to the unification of languages. Benedict Anderson argues that the nation as an imagined political community is envisioned as inherently limited and sovereign (Anderson, 2016). Blank and Schmidt (2003) describe nationalism and patriotism as particular expressions of national identity’s general concept. Nationalism and political agenda are getting mobilized and influenced by digital media. The virtual domain space has been continuously affecting nations’ governance worldwide (Maria-Abalos, 2016). In mobilizing public opinion at the time of the election, Twitter, as a social media platform, plays an important role. Studies have found that Bollywood (Indian cinema hub) celebrities are active on the platforms of Twitter in articulating their standpoints (Vasavada, Patra, Gadhiya, & Mishra, 2015). Studies revealed that the digital divide and disparity in media consumption have led to undesirable consequences in society. Research conducted in Russia finds that a massive digital divide persists among social groups, reflecting the urban and rural dichotomy (Chernova, Alexander, & Vasily, 2019). Thus, based on this point of view, nationalism is characterized by a feeling of national superiority, idealization of a nation, and uncritical acceptance of federal, state, and political authority. 


Nationalism Challenges in Malaysia and Indonesia


Malaysia faces challenges related to nationalism, specifically the lack of patriotic values, among the younger generation. However, the problem is still at a moderate level. Most of them were born after independence (Bandu, Ahmad, & Mahzan, 2015). As patriotism is built by the environment, the post-independence generation’s patriotism is not comparable to those who lived during the colonial period. This phenomenon is a significant issue in Malaysia. 

                There are many challenges to implement values of patriotism among the younger generation in Malaysia: (i) hostile attitude among the young age, for instance, young people who are very individualistic and preferred self-interest more than national interest; (ii) lack of appreciation among the people of various races; (iii) lack of confidence among the people of different races in terms of honesty and loyalty towards the country, and the last challenge is (iv) globalization. The borderless world may result in a foreign culture getting into the country quickly. The negative influence easily gets into the country and influence people, particularly the younger generation. However, the younger generation is now complacent with ICT technology’s progress, which is supposed to improve the application of the values of patriotism among the youths. 

                In Indonesia, nationalism faces quite severe challenges. The process of globalization and expansion of free trade seems as if Indonesia does not have the strength to overcome these challenges. Also, Indonesia’s internal dynamics contributed to the decline in the quality of nationalism. Indonesia is a nation that was born from an agreement on a supra-ethnic construction in the historical process. This ethnic problem can re-emerge when the nation’s pillars cannot provide prosperity, justice, pride, and crucial issues. It is necessary to revitalize several essential factors, which enable the re-functioning of nationalism as a driving force and source of inspiration to achieve the common goal of being an independent, united, sovereign, and prosperous nation (Sulistiyono, 2018).


New Media Cyber-Nationalism Concept


McQuail (2010) stated that the definition of “new media” is not easy to conceptualize. New media frequently refers to the Internet. The Internet has integrated film, radio, and television and spread them using push or press technology, which leads new media to ignore the boundaries of printings and broadcasting models by enabling conversations between many parties; allowing sequential reception of messages, changes, and re-spreading of cultural objects; disrupting communication actions from their important positions, namely territorial relation and modernity; providing global contact within a short time; and incorporating modern or late modern subjects into networked machines. Furthermore, there are some significant changes related to the emergence of new media. These changes include (i) digitalization and convergence of all media aspects, (ii) increasing network connectivity and interactivity, (iii) mobility and relocation to send and receive, (iv) adaptation to the role of publications and audiences, (v) emergence of various new forms of media gateways, and (vi) separation and blurring from ‘media institutions.’ 

The concept of cyberspace is not easy to define. Experts and researchers all over the world have been working together to explain this term. Among them is Bryant, who sees cyberspace as a representation of new communication media, electronic communication, which leaves or even replaces traditional communication methods rapidly (Bryant, 2001). On the other hand, Strate (1999) stated that several meanings characterize cyberspace. Strate divided cyberspace into three levels. First is an ontology that includes the idea of cyberspace as a para space or nonspace and the concept of cyberspacetime. The second includes buildings, such as physical concept space and perception or virtual space. The third is synthesis, including cyberspace variations, such as media space, aesthetics, data space, personal space, and social space (Strate, 1999). About the term of cyberspace, Meyrowitz (1999), in Nasrullah’s, stated that cyberspace had brought us to a new idea about media research which not only focuses on messages but also begins to involve communication technology directly or indirectly, as well as provides the fact that a communication technology device is a form or type of social environment (Nasrullah, 2016). Even other meanings, such as politics, culture, and economy, can also emerge, accompanying the new understanding of communication technology (Nasrullah, 2016).

                The concept of cyber-nationalism has been attempted to be conceptualized to date. This topic refers to two things, namely nationalism and cyberspace. In this case, Wu expressed his opinion that the interaction between online technology and nationalism forms the concept of cyber-nationalism (Wu, 2007). Furthermore, online technology can be a catalyst for the spread of nationalism and nationalistic activities in three forms. First, online technology provides an information center for gathering and spreading materials related to nationalism. Second, online technology provides a forum organization for the nationalism movement. Third, online technology functions as a technology that can perform actions to meet nationalist groups’ objectives.

The specific purpose of this paper is to provide the capture of the patterned network behavior among the Indonesian and Malaysian in the conjunction of cyber-nationalism through quantitative measurement of the relationship mode among users, information diffusion, and coverage-network distance. The analysis was performed using the social network analysis method, employing the NodeXL Pro software as an automation data harvesting engine.




This research used the social network analysis method to investigate the patterned network behavior among the Indonesian and Malaysian in conjunction with cyber-nationalism. This method consists of two stages. Initially, the big data was harvested from the social media platform’s cloud by employing the NodeXL Pro software. The collected data was analyzed and visualized using the appropriate algorithm. To display the social network mapping, the open-source visualization software, i.e., Gephi, was employed. To analyze the network generated by Twitter users, the three levels of network metrics were used to quantify their behavior. The overall metric was used to measure the density and the primary vertex metric degree (which includes In-Degree (ID) and Out-Degree (OD)). In contrast, the advanced vertex metric was employed to measure the Closeness Centrality (CC) and Betweenness Centrality (BC).

The data from Twitter were collected on April 8, 2019, using the hashtag: #Malaysia and #Indonesia. The date was chosen because April 8 was the day after Malaysia Super Series 2019. Malaysia Super Series is a badminton tournament held in Malaysia, which Indonesia is one of the participants of this international tournament. According to Dóczi et al., supporters’ spirit on the global sports championship reflects their nationalism even enhances their nationalism value (Bairner, 2015; Dóczi, 2012; Seippel, 2017). For the last four decades, Indonesia and Malaysia have dominated the badminton championship in Southeast Asia. 


Results and Discussion


This part analyses the directed graphs’ findings—a graph that all of its edges lead to a specific direction. In social network site analysis such as Twitter, directed graphs were selected to illustrate the patterns connected to the metrics divisions on the social network sites. Hence, there are two metric divisions, namely: In-Degree (ID) and Out-Degree (OD). ID measures the number of connections or edges that lead to the vertex, while OD measures the number of connections or edges that the vertex points to. In other words, ID is a user trusted by others (trusted users), and OD is a user who trusts other users (trustful users).  

Table 1 shows that the overall metrics of #Malaysia and #Indonesia and the datasets’ key features. According to Hansen, several key features of datasets need to be focused on, and one of the key features was observed as the degree of a vertex (Hansen, Shneiderman, & Smith, 2011). Thus, the degree of a vertex, commonly known as the Degree Centrality (DC), is the number of unique edges connected to the vertex. Table 1 shows that #Malaysia has 14,835 vertices with 17,340 unique edges while #Indonesia has 10,811 vertices with 14,835 unique edges.

Figure 1. Comparison of OD-ID and CC-ID in the (i) #Indonesia and (ii) #Malaysia hashtags. Red, as well as green lines, are the exponential fitting curve

Figure 1 shows a comparison of In-Degree values between #Malaysia and #Indonesia. The highest distribution of ID values for #Malaysia were ranged between 0 and 100. The result shows that #Malaysia is the largest number of trusted users with a range of 0 to 100, while #Indonesia’s largest ID values were close to the range of 200. This figure also indicates the OD measurement values in #Malaysia and #Indonesia. The most OD values for #Malaysia are in the range of 20, and some of the values range of 30 and above. On the other hand, #Indonesia, mostly in the range of 10 with some of the values is 30. The interest of OD and ID of both countries is their non-linear relation. OD is exponentially decreased over the increasing ID value, which means that the untrusted users would frequently respond to other users and vice versa. The untrusted users are inclined to follow other trusted users.

                Figure 1 shows the ID and Closeness Centrality (CC) values. CC is a term for describing the average distance between one vertex to another on network sites. Hence, the higher value of CC, the closer the distance between vertices and conversely. The lower value of CC, the more gap distance between vertices. For #Malaysia, most of the CC values are range between 0 and 0.2. The result shows that users are incredibly close and directly connected. For #Indonesia, the CC values also between 0 and 0.2. CC values indicated the flow of information and have an extremely significant meaning to diffusion the information. The range values of CC indicate the speed of information spread on social network sites. The higher CC values indicate the rapid spreading of information on the network sites. As observed in the figure, the CC level decreases with the increasing of ID value. The exponential decreasing of CC over both countries’ ID is also observed, which reflects that the untrusted users usually only have a limited network area. Oppositely, trusted users often have a broader network. The most trusted person for #Malaysia is @nctsmtown, with a value of 6827, and for #Indonesia, the most trusted person is @diitavampire, with a value of 606. Table 2 shows a list of ten social media accounts with the highest ID values. 


Table 2. Ten accounts with the highest ID values for #Indonesia and #Malaysia

Table 3. Ten accounts with the highest OD values for #Indonesia and #Malaysia

Table 3 shows the ten social media accounts with the highest OD values for #Malaysia and #Indonesia. Based on Table 3 information, the first rank OD for #Malaysia is @rohingya_update with a value of 48 and @bob_bay with 86 values for #Indonesia. The highest OD values for social media account on using #Malaysia, and #Indonesia indicated the most trustful users and trustful social media accounts. Table 4 shows ten social media accounts with the highest CC values. For both #Malaysia and #Indonesia, the CC values for top accounts are 1. Therefore, all ten accounts’ CC values for #Malaysia and #Indonesia are close. 


Table 4. Ten accounts with the highest CC values for #Indonesia and #Malaysia


Besides trusted people, trustful people, and closeness centrality aspects, there is another key aspect for social network site analysis, i.e., Betweenness Centrality (BC). BC indicates the distance between vertices, which is the bridge connected the vertices with the network sites to spread the information. Table 5 shows ten social media accounts with the highest BC values. For #Malaysia, the highest value of 102,026,907,439 belongs to @nctsmtown. While, for #Indonesia, @rt_com the highest BC value of 7,837,009,129.



Figure 2: Overall network for (a). #Indonesia, and (b). #Malaysia.


Figure 2 shows the social network site mapping for #Malaysia and #Indonesia. The figure shows their respective densities. The #Indonesia network density is about 6.9 × 10−5; while, the density of #Malaysia is about 7.9 × 10−5. The maximum diameter for #Indonesia is 21, with an average distance of 8.7, and #Malaysia has a maximum diameter of 21 with an average distance of 5.4. However, they have a similar maximum diameter; their average coverage network is significantly different. The Indonesian network is more scattered, while the Malaysian network focuses more on specific users’ accounts. It means both Indonesian and Malaysian do have an awareness of nationalism, although they exhibit their spreading mode. The communication culture among their society is probably responsible for this diverse network mode (Ramli, 2013; Carley, Malik, Landwehr, Pfeffer, & Kowalchuck, 2016; Andalasia, Azwandi, & Diani, 2019).




Overall, the study highlighted the relationship between people’s trust and the impact on social network sites. Based on this current study, this research emphasizing nationalism in cyberspace and using a hashtag as a new approach to express nationalism on the social media platform, Twitter. The hashtags on two countries, such as #Malaysia and #Indonesia, drew a pattern on In-Degree, Out-Degree, and Closeness Centrality on social network sites to show the value that indicates the level of user’s trust towards specific network sites. 

                The quantitative analysis of the different behavior and impact of the trusted and untrusted users in the two friendly countries’ nationalism context has been conducted. As a result, the pattern on #Malaysia and #Indonesia on the social media platform, Twitter, shows that the increasing value of ID correlates to OD and CC’s decreased values, which fit the negative exponential curve. These relations denote that the untrusted users would respond and follow other users, while the trusted users behave oppositely. Furthermore, untrusted users usually only have a limited network area, while trusted users often have a broader network. The untrusted users tend to diffuse their idea to the broader network, while the trusted users make less effort to reach more comprehensive users.

Acknowledgments: This work was supported by Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana (Indonesia) through the Fundamental Research Grant.




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Dewi Kartika Sari is a senior lecturer in the Department of Communication at Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, IndonesiaShe specializes in digital citizenship, media studies, and public participation. 

Jamilah Ahmad is a Professor attached to the School of Communication, Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia. Her research focuses on social media, youth studies, corporate social responsibility,   public relations education, environmental communication, and community relations. 

Putri Hergianasari is a senior lecturer in the Department of International Relations at Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, IndonesiaHer research interests lie in politics, radicalism, and international issues.

Pratiwi Cristin Harnita is a Lecturer in the Department of Communication at Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, Indonesia. 

Nur Aji Wibowo is an Associate Professor of Physics in the Faculty of Science and Mathematics at Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, Indonesia. His current research interests are primarily in the areas of computational modeling in applied sciences and functionalized magnetic nanomaterials. 


Correspondence to: Jamilah Ahmad, School of Communication, Universiti Sains Malaysia, 11800 Pulau Pinang, Malaysia


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