Malibongwe Tyilo wonders why we really cast the first stone on Twitter
As anyone familiar with social media must know by now, Twitter outrage is a normal part of life. On any given day, a group of people will be pissed off at someone and, as judge and jury, demand an apology and demand that they be fired in 140 characters or less. While some believe that in their moment of public outrage they are looking for answers or possible solutions, it is quite telling that a large amount of these outrage sessions generally exist within a cycle of 24 to 48 hours. Wake up tomorrow and the anger has shifted to some other poor sod.
Take, for example, the recent Twitter storm over designer Gavin Rajah’s dress at Cape Town Fashion Week. It was pretty much seam for seam identical to a creation by Lebanese designer Zuhair Murad from the previous year. The internet community was pissed and they wanted blood. People who openly admitted they had never heard of Rajah were demanding answers. As if! Lol.
The news bubbled under for a couple of days, but the actual Twitter storm hit from Monday to Tuesday. News sites were on it, radio was on it. The story was irresistible: drama, glamour and scandal all rolled into one. It was perfect. However, by Wednesday only the slowest to catch on were still chatting about Rajah. No one seemed to care any more. So what if they didn’t get much in the way of answers; they got a chance to throw a stone.
Remember Justine Sacco from December last year? She was like a gift from the Twitter gods, a racist ignorant little gift, but a gift nevertheless.
The PR executive famously tweeted: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” This she did just before switching off her phone and jumping on an 11-hour flight to Cape Town. Bless her.
Her tweet was retweeted more than 2 000 times during her flight. BuzzFeed and other websites caught on to it as it went viral. It even inspired the hashtag #HasJustineLandedYet. We were pissed, we threw our stones and this time there was no doubt about how right we were and how wrong she was. Her actions were indefensible and screencaptured for all to see. Shortly after, she was fired from her job. A quick Google search will reveal that she is working in PR again. Oh well.
DA leader Helen Zille has to be some sort of expert at dealing with Twitter outrage as she has been at the centre of so much of it. She also inspired hashtags such as the hilarious #ThingsHelenMade and #StopZille2014 earlier this year.
Of course, discourse is important and issues must be highlighted as they come. We can’t sit around and say nothing when shit happens. We don’t even have to find a solution; we can just vent. It’s one thing to ask questions and expose injustice, but let us be a little more honest about what we are doing in moments of Twitter outrage. We’re indulging in one of the most ancient forms of capital punishment, a good old public stoning. Whether or not a resolution is reached, all that matters is that we get our chance to throw a stone at the “offender”.