We’re little over two weeks away from casting our ballots, and Facebook is getting ready for South Africa’s 2019 National Elections. The social network…
People love to laugh at themselves, especially at times when the country they live in seems at odds with itself. You just have to look at stand-up comedy and satirical cartoons in a country like South Africa to see that. But social media has provided a new medium for this, and this past weekend saw the hashtag #YouKnowYoureSouthAfricanWhen giving us the giggles.
Some of our favourites included:
#youknowyouresouthafricanwhen the phrase "ja well no fine" makes sense to you
— wilson mafokwana (@ntshoyamathudi) June 16, 2013
#YouKnowYoureSouthAfricanWhen you say "Shame man" as an expression of sympathy rather than disgust.
— Sarah Britten (@Anatinus) June 16, 2013
— fernaaz (@miss_fernaaz) June 17, 2013
Tweets were surprisingly lacking in the cynical tone that Saffas usually adopt when discussing the state of the nation. Predictably, though, most contained a dose of our local brand of affectionate mockery.
Our habit of caricaturing ourselves spawned another recent trend – #wordsthatchowblacks –which poked fun at some of the non-English accents in the country:
— Lesedi Moiloa (@KeoDaPoet) June 3, 2013
This didn’t mean any politically-correct hats were hung up though:
We will roast any white person that participates in »»» #wordsthatchowblacks that's just a friendly warning…
— Herman Henry II (@Im_Her_man) June 2, 2013
Hashtag trends, like rotation curation, where a country rotates its national Twitter account between users, can be a form of national storytelling that doesn’t prioritise the voices of journalists or marketing teams. If they can navigate the local dialects, international followers may even get a peek at South African culture that isn’t sterilised and packaged by tourism organisations or — even worse — badly produced foreign media.
For South Africans, such trends are, like good stand-up comedy, a possible nation-building device. They open up a space for inter-cultural conversations that most ordinary citizens don’t tend to have on the street. Twitter is a limited tool for nation-building, though, for the same reasons that it’s an imperfect tool for social change. It’s not a medium that is accessible (or useful) for many South Africans, and the tweeps participating in the trend are generally middle-class English speakers.
Its imperfections don’t render it useless, however. Identity-based topics like these are indicative of the way that the internet caters to niche markets that enjoy nostalgia, and South Africans could do with a bout of nostalgia that isn’t remnant of apartheid, poverty or crime. They get to look back and tell their own local stories, one tweet at a time. And laugh while they’re doing it.