Not so long ago, about half-a-decade or more ago, Twitter used to be a frivolous place. People, myself included, would tweet mostly under their nicknames and pseudonyms. More importantly, we’d all be mostly tweeting about what we had for lunch, the music we are listening to, sports banter, and other such supposedly less serious matters.
Slowly but then suddenly, whatever was said on Twitter became serious and tweets started revolving around politics and business. Before I knew it, newspapers, (previously) respectable ones, started running whole articles based on tweets and mostly quoting tweets as part of the news.
So important and intertwined with our real lives has Twitter become that a Ugandan student at Harvard University, Hillary Innocent Seguya Taylor, is suing the President of Uganda along with two other officials of the East African country for blocking him on Twitter. Taylor’s main argument is that, as a Ugandan citizen abroad, following Ugandan politicians on Twitter is one of the few methods he can follow political and governance matters in Uganda. As such, by blocking him, Museveni & Co. are denying him his right to information as a citizen.
I think Taylor’s argument is sound (we will be following the case).
Another incident that had me penning this newsletter is that of Jack Dorsey (Co-founder and CEO of Twitter) having his Twitter account hacked. It was quite a spectacle to observe it all in real-time as Jack’s Twitter account, out of nowhere tweeted the N-word. This was then followed by more racial slurs and ultimately some pro-Nazi tweets. Every single publication and broadcaster worth its salt was running with the story.
This got me asking, is Twitter a reflection of society and that important?
Unfortunately, the amount of Twitter users, especially in African countries, represents a small minority.
What makes it usually appear that Twitter represents the mindset of any country, in my humble opinion, is that most journalists and broadcasters are also on Twitter. As such, they tend to amplify what is visible to them.
You see this play out like clockwork during elections in most African countries. The Twitterati, who is very much like the bourgeoisie (as opposed to aristocrats and peasants), will wax lyrical about their favorite political party (most times it’s an opposition party, because…TiA). They will get it trending on Twitter, and journalists and others will take that as a sign of the zeitgeist. Elections come, and the incumbent political party (again, because…TiA) wins and the Twitterati are back at it again feigning shock and horror at how it was clear (based on tweets 🙄) that their party of choice was popularly and should have won.
The reality, in most parts, not all (because…TiA), is that the incumbent does door-to-door campaigning and very little Twitter campaigning because they understand the statistics, most voters are not on Twitter, and as such it is not necessarily representative of the majority.
Not to mention how some people have at least two Twitter accounts, some are bots, some run by multiple people pretending to be one person, and more. So, yes,
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