Like most people, I am not very fond of queues. I usually carry a book or iPad so I can read when waiting in the queue. However, a few days ago, I underestimated the amount of time I would be standing in a shop queue.

So, as one does as habit dictates, I pulled out my phone. Opened Twitter, and there was a trending topic (keywords) that caught my eye and seemed to be on most South Africans timelines.

It was about “Khaya.”

It is not so much the details of why it was trending but the amount and type of comments that were being made. My quick guessstimation is that 9 out of 10 tweets mentioning Khaya were negative in sentiment, i.e. they were either ridiculing the subjects or laughing at them.

Of course, this is not new and happens daily, but it got me asking: what is it about social media that makes us (I have been guilty of this too) to lack empathy and turn people’s very real troubles in life into a thing to be ridiculed?

"Social media is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people" - Karl Marxxx, 2019 Source: iAfrikan Digital

The opium of the people

This also reminded me of something Karl Marx once wrote in Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, from which the famous quote “Religion is the opium of the people” comes from.

"Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man – state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion. Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." - Karl Marx, 1843.

Now, read Marx’s words above again, but this time replace religion with the words Social Media.


For a long time, I used to dismiss social media as not real, as not being a reflection of society. However, the same sentiments Marx had about religion in the 1800s ring true for social media, in my humble opinion, in the world we live in today.

Social media seems, for some people, to be a place where they are able to lose their masks and unleash their inner raw thoughts and emotions.

The same way opiates are addictive and negatively affect those who use them, it seems social media has similar effects (I could be wrong).

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