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Social-ism for the masses

Joshua Broomberg
Age: 17
Social media of choice: Facebook
Hours a week: 11-12
Broomberg is the outgoing vice-head boy of King David High School Victory Park who, with his debating team colleagues, found himself in the centre of a controversy after posting a picture on Facebook of them wearing keffiyeh around their necks in support of Palestine.

“I think most people use social media fairly superficially. They post about lunch and brunch and parties. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything wrong with using it for that. I just think they miss out on the ability to learn from social media and to post in a way that forwards social discourse.

“I would have to say perhaps the most interesting experience surrounds the recent conflict between Israel and Palestine. My news feed was filled with people on both sides of the ‘divide’ equally as sure that the other side was wrong and was behaving in a morally abhorrent manner in the conflict. Both sides. Both convinced. Very little cross-engagement that didn’t descend into vitriol. Beyond my personal experience on social media at the time, I found this lack of engagement scary indeed. People need to learn to talk and engage.”

Debra Carter
Age: 59
Social media of choice: Facebook
Hours a week: Seven or more
Carter is a full-time grandmother and a part-time Facebook addict. (Photo: Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

“Because most of my friends are my age, and we are all grandparents, we use it as a bit of a brag book. It’s much easier than carrying around a little photo album. We all put up pics of our grandchildren. We ‘like’ each other’s pics and always comment as to how beautiful the kids are, or how they have grown. I always ‘like’ someone’s pics. It’s a good way to get a good reaction to something you put up. It’s called participating on Facebook.”

Thato Koketso Mohuba
Age: 23
Social media of choice: Instagram
Hours a week: Always on
Mohuba is a film student and photographer who posts on Instagram as Anathablackartist(Photo: Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

“I have grown with social media like Facebook and Twitter. I knew of them at the right times, used those that were relevant then. And once I became a photographer comfortable with my work and needed a faster way of showing it, Instagram was at its prime.

“I never really liked the idea of Facebook being a marketing tool; it’s my personal space so I kept it that way. I share work on many platforms, I don’t do it to advertise, the business comes by itself. I wouldn’t be the little brand I am without social media. A brand is when people are able to recognise one’s work, product, thought, philosophies without having to ask. All that I produce is my signature; it is what defines my work and being. I, the brand, have accustomed people to my product.”

Thokozani Goodwill Matsabe
Age: 31
Social media of choice: Twitter
Hours a week: Seven
Matsabe is an engineer and Kaizer Chiefs fan.

“Twitter is a good way to keep up with sports. Even if I don’t know the score you can tweet me ‘Kaizer Chiefs won 2-0’ or ‘who scored?’ or something like that. Sometimes you can’t watch on television or listen to the radio but you can check it on Twitter.

“I met this guy, this politics guy, Bantu Holomisa. The big gazi. He loves soccer very much. His favourite team is Kaizer Chiefs. I always tweet with him. Actually, we don’t go into details of politics. He tweets me only about Kaizer Chiefs. It’s all the scores. The players.

“Actually, it’s not all about soccer. Ligwalagwala FM, all the presenters, I tweet them. Also my friends, just socialise, a lot of things. It’s not all about soccer.”

Earl Conning
Age: 42
Social media of choice: Facebook
Hours a week: 30
Conning is a producer who uses Facebook as a platform for discussion, especially on issues about religion.

“I am very outspoken about the harms of religion. Coming from a very religious background, first Christianity and then Islam, these issues are very close to my heart.

“From initially just connecting with family and being a source of entertainment, a large part of my presence nowadays is about speaking out on issues that matter … actually using social media to try to make the world a better place by conscientising people on issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia, religious indoctrination and just encouraging people to break the shackles of childhood prejudices and programming.

“There are many of my Christian friends and family who would use Facebook to ‘share the good news’. In this sense I am like the antidote for that :-).

“I have been unfriended by a few people who simply found what I do too offensive. I have no problem with this. Most people prefer the comfort of prejudice to the effort of thinking, so it is to be expected. But I have had other people, some atheists, for example, saying things like, ‘Thank you for speaking out.'”

Vasan Putter
Age: 42
Social media of choice: Facebook
Hours a week: 7-10
Putter is a volunteer for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, Out on a Limb and Audio Describe. 

“When I first started to use social media, eight years ago, it was solely to keep in touch with friends that had emigrated. A few years ago I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) so my social life changed dramatically. I became housebound for a while. Social media then became a way to stay in touch with the outside world. Now, as a volunteer for a few organisations, I have used social media to promote awareness about disability as well as to raise funds.

“Social media has literally saved my life! I found out about a groundbreaking treatment for MS in a Facebook chat group at 2am when I couldn’t sleep. I was chatting to the first person to have the operation after she woke up from surgery! She encouraged me to get in touch with the surgeon first thing in the morning.”

Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl
Age: 38
Social media of choice: Twitter
Hours a week: Always on
Van Zyl is a medical doctor with a special interest in HIV and Aids, and women and child health who tweets as @drsindivanzyl(Photo: Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

“I joined Twitter in February 2011 after meeting Shaka Sisulu. I was very new and intimidated so I asked him for pointers. He said, ‘Just do you’. In this case, it is me teaching about HIV. That is my passion.

“It definitely has changed my life. The increased prevalence of Twitter has made it easier for people to find me and I have started getting emails from people all over the world asking about medical issues mostly related to HIV. That is so special to me because I am really fulfilling my dream.

“I became a doctor to help people and that is exactly what I am doing.”

Thulisa (Thuli) Gogela
Age: 33
Social media of choice: Facebook and Instagram
Hours a week: About 20 or more
Gogela blogs as mzansistylecuisine, with a special interest in traditional food.

“I’ve always been passionate about traditional food and, since I studied food, my friends used to ask for traditional recipes such as mageu (a maize-based drink), and umngqusho (a traditional dish based on crushed maize and beans) on Facebook.

“I would share these recipes with the individuals. That’s where the idea came from. I thought, ‘why don’t I create a platform where I can share recipes not just with individuals but with the masses out there’? Initially, nobody was paying attention to a traditional food blogger. What helped was promoting the blog on other platforms such as television, radio, magazines, newspapers. I now have loyal readers from different parts of the world.”

Tracey Rose
Age: 42
Social media of choice: Facebook
Hours per week: Seven or less.
Rose is a performance artist who is to be poked with caution.

“I entered Facebook reluctantly, but with the full knowledge of it being a ‘governmental’ intelligence-gathering device. It would be my online ‘lecture’ theatre, with the total exclusion of the personal and sentimental … this was my initial manifesto; as my addiction grew, so did my dependency on the self- affirming ‘like’ buttons, during those gloomy days of depressing isolation, the revolutionary raging from my round-about chair, the intensely fantastic relationships from the 20th century were renewed, found and un-lost.

“I loved my Facebook and advocated reluctant workaholics to do so too. You need never leave your living room.

“And then … marriage and adorable baba. Facebook became a mess from the stodgily professional to the embarrassingly familial. A new world disorder.

“And then … the divorce and the right-wing posting. As I cowered in my bomb shelter, I defriended and blocked. Yay! No more stuffed animals and the like with prescription posting, quality control returned.”

Eamon Allan is a freelance writer who lives in Johannesburg.

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