Twitter Narratives

By Farah Khaleck Chaudry

This week’s newsletter is continuing the tradition of inviting members of our community to write From The Curator’s Desk, and for this edition, I’m happy to hand it over to Farah Khaleck Chaudry, a Baraza member who responded to my invitation a fortnight ago with a strong pitch that I am excited to share with you. Farah is a writer, speaker and digital content strategist.

I’ll be handing over this section of the newsletter to guest writers from time to time, please do reach out to me on chris@barazalab.com if you’re interested in writing this section and you have something of interest to share to our community — a trend you’ve noticed or something you’d like us to think about.

~ Christine Mungai, Curator

I believe that the first piece of information we internalise every morning sets the tone for the day. That’s why I tend to stay away from Twitter for most of my mornings, and even when I do open it, I steer clear of trending topics. When I started out on social media, Twitter was my favourite app because it allowed me to express myself without the pressure of posting an image as well; basically I didn’t have to show myself. Today the bird app is a scary jungle and I’m finding myself having to tread very cautiously on those streets.

A few weeks ago, I had a short conversation with fellow Baraza members on how easily political agendas are being pushed on social media, especially Twitter, during election time (actually, if we are to be honest, politicians have been in campaign mode for more than three years now). It got me wondering, especially when I see people taking these obviously engineered narratives seriously – are we so gullible? With all the information that is available on our fingertips, why does it seem so easy to push narratives and sway opinions?

It’s so easy to read something and type an angry response out, and I’ll admit some of the things I see on Twitter get me emotional too. But I want to change that and now I normally take a backseat to try and view things differently, and honestly it takes a lot of strength to hold these fingers back, in case something I say in the heat of the moment is not appropriate when viewed in the future. We’ve all had those ‘what was I even thinking’ moments; it is okay –  we are human after all.

Still, I worry about how narratives are being pushed so easily these days and I am wondering – what is real anyway? The politicians are not making things easy for us either, the musical chair switches that they do are too much to keep up with, let’s be honest. Much of what trends every day is not authentic, it is being pushed by bots, faceless trolls, and disinformation ‘influencers for hire’.

It happens to ordinary people too. A few weeks ago, a story went viral of a harrowing ordeal a woman had gone through while holidaying in Zanzibar.  She chose to be vulnerable and share, but sadly she too underwent intense scrutiny and bullying. Sometimes I wonder what kind of a society we have built. I agree there are some unscrupulous people who mean only harm and can go to any extent to harass someone unprovoked, but being human also means being kind and courteous first, right?

It’s a vicious cycle and sadly it’s easy to find yourself engrossed in it every damn time, whether by a reaction or a response. I choose to believe that people can change, but it takes time but it is a start to evolving into a better human, into improved decision making and most importantly into being better informed, aware and kinder. it doesn’t hurt to stop and think before pressing “tweet” or “send”, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to share some love.

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In the meantime, here’s:

  • What We’re Reading: Baraza Media Lab and Africa Podfest collaborated once again to produce our 2nd research report focusing on podcasts. This latest body of work explores the state and potential of African podcasting, mapping out the present and future of African audio storytelling, to answer the question ‘What does growth and sustainability for African podcasting mean?’ in three of Africa’s largest podcast markets – Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. To read the full report, click here.
  • What We’re Watching: Last year, together with Thomson Foundation, we ran the Bettina Fund program, an initiative intended to support women journalists rise into leadership roles. In April, we marked the conclusion of the program with a webinar on women in leadership, led by  Julie Gichuru. You can watch the entire session on our YouTube channel.
  • What We’re Listening ToKendrick Lamar, The Heart Part 5.

As always,
Christine Mungai
Curator | Baraza Media Lab


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