Statista’s second quarter report for 2018 on the number of active Twitter users put the average monthly figure at a staggering 335 million with singer Katy Perry leading with more than 108 million followers ,a little over 7 Zimbabwean populations . The microblogging service continues to grow in popularity globally as people use it to communicate and debate on matters of personal,national and global interest. Twitter has become the preferred platform by most political leaders and actors to put their messages across. Arguably nobody comes close to eccentric USA President ,Donald Trump who day in and day out uses Twitter to promote his “Make America Great Again” mantra as aggressively and without care,offensively as he possibly can.,earning him the monicker 0 ” The Tweeting President “.
A lot of Zimbabweans both at home and in the diaspora also use this platform. Zim Twitter has grown to be a political battlefield especially starting in 2016 where more and more people began to express their political views on the platform. It was always a spot of bother for most Zimbabweans that few of their political leaders were active on Twitter in comparison to other countries where citizens would engage with their political leaders and speak their minds. The frustration was further compounded by the fact that the paranoid Mugabe regime had instilled so much fear into the people that it needed bravado to speak out against the regime without any consequences. One risked jail time for “insulting ” the President. Luckily for the citizens,a couple of prominent politicians from the ruling Zanu PF party,main opposition party the MDC-T and activists joined the platform. This opened the door for robust debates and exchange. Many hoped that Mugabe himself would have a Twitter handle,it never happened.His and Zanu PF’s agenda was fiercely defended on Twitter by his chief propagandist Jonathan Moyo. Moyo became arguably one of the most active Twitter users that many wondered if he ever had time to attend to his ministerial duties.
Zanu PF’ s poisoned succession chalice led to a military coup in November 2017 that toppled Mugabe and propelled Emmerson Mnangagwa to power as the year came to a close in dramatic fashion.Twitter was once again a hive of activity as analysts and wannabe analysts proffered this and that opinion and theory about the coup.Sharp divisions and cracks came to the fore during this period and it was downhill from there. As 2018 began,we all knew that we were headed for a watershed election. It was going to be the first election held in Zimbabwe since 1980 without Mugabe at the helm.Fate played a cruel hand and robbed the nation of Morgan Tsvangirai in February, a gallant fighter for democracy and Mugabe’s arch foe . In his place,an ambitious Nelson Chamisa came in,albeit in ways deemed devious and causing an umpteenth split in the party.All this played out on Twitter in varying degrees.
The stage became set for an intriguing election battle between a Zanu PF candidate seen by many as same old wine in new skins despite his new dispensation mantra and a baby faced opposition leader high on promise. The toxicity of Zimbabwean Twitter became worse at this stage .The way people debated and exchanged ceased to be on facts and out of respect for differing opinions.Instead people resorted to calling each other names and used foul language in ways never imagined. Excitable analysts and party fanatics made the situation worse by taking sides without any room left for objective discourse.This carried onto the election and post election period. Men and women have been shamelessly derided and called names,people have had their mothers,wives and kids called things that we would never want our own to be called.People have taken pseudo identities and say anything about anything to anyone, hiding behind the veil.
Every person who holds a different view from someone who supports a particular party is an Ediot or a Nerrorist,derogatory euphemisms used to describe supporters of the Zanu PF leader and MDC T leader .I am not saying this as an angel myself but Zim Twitter has advanced the animosity and division in our country in a very big way.Respected opinion leaders became outlets of hate and sowers of division. A lot of emotions than brains went into most of our debates and we engaged ourselves in a keyboard war that might take time to recover from.It is common cause that we can’t all be on the same page but we let ourselves down by failing to be civil in our engagements . Vulgarity which ordinarily would be frowned upon has become part of our everyday language on Twitter.
Now that the protracted election has been settled by a court ruling,I hope we all realise that we are all Zimbabweans .I hope we all realise that the people we wounded each other for using words might never care about us but we must care about and for each other. None of the politicians will likely come to your aid in time of dire need but it is that neighbour,that brother,that sister you called by names that are unsavoury . Should we pass each other and not exchange pleasantries because of Twitter,because of politicians? It is time we find each other and make a deliberate attempt to detoxify our Twitter. We must argue and debate and disagree but we must do all this with dignity. We can differ without using vulgar ,we can debate without insulting.
God bless Zimbabwe.
Note: I am moving my georgedamson.blogspot.com platform here.
George Damson is a coat of many colours:
Experiences Creator,Sports Enthusiast, Publicist,Part time writer.
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