Opinion

'Keyboard warriors' are little more than social media bullies

'Keyboard warriors' are little more than social media bullies
  • We need to use the public sphere of social media to speak truth to power. But you’ve got to be smarter than tweeting and leaving it at that.
  • So, to the woke generation, this weekend, spare us some of that negativity and for once, tweet about something worth smiling about.

Generally, I do not like politicians.

Most are liars, dishonest to the bone, and they are easily the most selfish people among us. Sorry, to all my friends who became politicians; it is not the player that I hate, it’s the game.

But once in a while, I make exceptions. Tito Mboweni, the current South African Minister for Finance is one such exception.

I particularly loved following him on Twitter. Forget his humour; I loved how he amusingly documented his cooking expeditions to his nearly half a million Twitter fans.

I always looked forward to following the storms he cooked up in his kitchen. I will also admit that I borrowed one or two tips from him to improve what is now my legendary beef stew.

But this week, Tito tweeted something that broke my heart. He said: “After a long thought process, I have decided not to do any original tweets anymore. I might, just might, retweet (not endorsement). I came to the conclusion that Twitter is no longer about its original purpose: that is, to create a networked society. It is now an abusive platform.”

MISGUIDED ACTIVISM

I guess Tito, like most of us, must have been fatigued from all the negativity and hypocrisy on Twitter (and social media in general) to make that decision to self-censor.

I will miss his original, unvarnished tweets but mostly, I will miss his cooking tales and poorly lit photos of what I was certain was a mean beef stew.

A few days ago, former US President Barack Obama criticised our collective social media hypocrisy, or the ‘woke’ generation that derives pleasure and self-aggrandisement from criticising anything and anyone.

Obama basically told us to ‘get over ourselves’ and this fake idea that we are ‘politically woke’ just because we can get on Twitter, ‘call out’ a few people and think that we are better than everyone else.

He particularly said: “There is this sense, sometimes, of: ‘the way of me making change is to be as judgemental as possible about other people’, and that’s enough.

Like, if I tweet or hashtag about how you didn’t do something right, then I can sit back and feel pretty good about myself, ‘cause ‘men, did you see how woke I was? I called you out!’ That is not activism. That is not bringing about change. If all you are doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far.”

FALSE LIVES

That’s right, Obama said it; if all you ever do on Twitter or social media is cast stones, exchange barbs with people and spend your time ‘calling out’ people, you are never going to get very far, and more importantly, you are many things, but an activist is not one of them.

And boy, don’t we have many of them here! The Twitter activists, the ones who see wrong and negative in everything that people do; the ones who have dedicated their lives to peddling negativity, rumours and half-truths.

There are those among us who have dedicated their lives to being agents of pessimism.

They are experts on everything from governance, relationships and national exams to the state of the economy, American politics, carwashes in their hoods, the state of primary schools in Kenya and even other people’s marriages.

They are the chosen ‘woke’ generation with a moralistic stance on everything, wallowing in their own puritanical, Wi-Fi -enabled cocoons, trawling for the next thing to criticise and maul with their itchy Twitter fingers, feeling very good about themselves.

Truth is, you are not as ‘woke’ as you think you are, and certainly, you are not as smart as you probably think you are.

FIND PURPOSE

Yes, there are things that we need to highlight in our society. There are atrocities that need to be tweeted about and by all means, we need to use the public sphere of social media to speak truth to power.

But you’ve got to be smarter than tweeting and leaving it at that.

More importantly, you have got to take Obama’s advice. People are not perfect. We all have flaws. People mess up.

People make grave mistakes. Life is not black and white. To use Obama’s words: “The world is messy, there are ambiguities,” so deal with that.

I bet, given the opportunity, those woke folk would never do half the job of the people they are criticising.

So, to the woke generation, this weekend, spare us some of that negativity and for once, tweet about something worth smiling about.

Meanwhile, anyone who knows Mr Mboweni, please let him know that in my community we have a saying that goes: “The eyes of a frog cannot stop a cow from drinking water.”

Ms Chege is the director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications;