The Twitter Experience: Unravelling the reservoir of knowledge
When Michael Jackson died, I stayed at home glued to the TV screen watching every video, interview and footage that was available and airing on cable at that time.
This signified the end of my childhood and I wanted to connect with all those that were experiencing something similar to the loss I felt. I needed to belong with people that grew up in the era of Michael Jackson’s greatness. The period before the colour and face changes, before the sexual abuse accusations and before he dangled Blanket over the balcony. In short, the time before the Pepsi commercial.
Weirdly for me at that time, all the TV channels kept repeating one sentence in varied ways the whole weekend through. “People in Japan are tweeting that…”, “From tweets collected in Russia…”, “Twitter polls indicate…” I had no clue what Twitter was and my only connection was the little boy from Jackson 5.
Whatever was happening on Twitter, it had something to do with him and so I knew that that is where I belonged. My people that would understand my loss were there. I created my account and was welcomed by a world of grief, memories and solidarity. I was home.
After the mourning period, I stayed on. I walked through the streets of Twitter and realized how amazing it was to place thoughts on a canvas and have it coloured in by complete strangers. People that you do not have to ask about their kids and spouses, people that will not feel offended when you do not greet them in the morning, essentially people that you do not need to have a superficial relationship with.
I would not regard my relations on social media as deep, but because it is mostly free from subjective inter-personal issues, it allows me to tackle the actual topic with somebody, rather than allowing my ego or theirs to tackle each other’s personality. There are many important dimensions and realities that I discovered there. Trending topics change all the time, but I have finally found and followed those people that discuss topics essential to my personal growth.
My favourite topic has become Afrika (with a ‘k’). Before Twitter, I identified with black life as being either that portrayed by Black Americans or Afrikan villagers in our rural areas. Everything in between was just floating around with no position of real reference for me. Ironically, being neither black in America or Afrikan in a village, I fell right into that place that I had ignorantly constructed myself. On Twitter, I learned that I had not yet self-identified. I was just floating in a bubble that I had filled with my admiration of the heroic struggles by the likes of Malcolm X and Assata Shakur. My illusionary bubble also had space to fit in my respect of the Afrikan village woman, who I felt was dignified through her simplicity. I never identified with anybody’s fights nor viewed them as a collective struggle. Wanting nothing for myself but mere existence, that is all I did; exist.
Then Twitter became the classroom where everybody could be a teacher. I learned so much about racism, colourism, capitalism, patriarchy and how they all smoothly fit together to run the machinery of our societies. I learned that my education system had deprived me of Captain Thomas Sankara, the young president from Burkina Faso who was murdered in his first phase of wanting better for Burkinabes and Afrika in general.
I learned that feminism is not just for angry, white lesbians that wear no bras, but also for black men. I realized that I may even be a Cabralista. Maybe I am a field nigger. At times, I am also a teacher. Whatever it is that I am transcending to, I have come to the realisation that it is not only beneficial but also necessary to emancipate oneself from mental slavery. This is not just something that sounds good in a Bob Marley track.
I am now educating myself on my culture and taking this to rebuild myself. My heritage has grown from not just being Omuwambo in Namibia, but an Afrikan in the world with brothers and sisters on the rest of the continent and in the Diaspora. I have learned that not everything is a conspiracy theory, but some events are really well calculated steps taken. I see now how many decisions we make and think are ours are actually imposed upon us though media, education and doctrine. I believe that it can be different for us in and from Afrika if we start thinking about our oppression instead of tolerating it. I have seen the beauty in our people, languages and music. I have witnessed the strength in unity and solidarity. I have known the slogan “Say it loud. I am black and I am proud.” Now I know that it is not just cool rhyming.
Twitter is not for everyone, but it makes for a good experience when you construct your environment well. For some people it is still just Twitter. Some are not aware of their ignorance, others not of their privilege. Some may wonder what I am fussing about. Several just want entertainment and escape from everyday life. I just wanted comfort when I joined.
Now I have decided to make use of the reservoir of knowledge and power shared by my people. I am reshaping my world. I try to know a little more, think a little better so I can live more meaningfully. I think I am headed there. Thank you Twitter.