Last year I made a promise to myself to make my Twitter timeline more pan-African. To my roster of South African thought-leaders, I added Kenyan movers and shakers. And just when I thought I had mastered some of the subtleties of political thought in both these African giants, I took on the mammoth task of trying to “get” Nigerians on Twitter.
I am grateful for how immediately my foolishness became clear to me. Twitter would not be an easy thing for me anymore. First of all, I had to quickly get a feel for the different types of humour that are hits on these different parts of African Twitter. For years I had dealt in the slapstick satire of South African Twitter, comfortable in that, my natural home. Being a peculiar combination of Nguni-Sotho-speaking, the slipping in and out of vernacular was easy for me to follow.
Soon, I would add to that a quick familiarity with the Kenyan tradition of dry observation. But the addition of Nigeria threw things off a bit. Even now I have to spend a little time figuring out if the larger-than-life proclamations of Nigerian Twitter folk are indeed jokes.
Then there was the larger matter of trying to keep the names straight. Luckily the languages in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria are so different from each other that I could at least guess relatively well what politicians were from where. But keeping all the issues straight? That would prove to be near impossible for an armchair analyst of even my years in the biz. (I am still unsure if newly-elected Buhari is a complete disaster or a gift from the gods. Nigerian Twitter’s mood swings are still a bit hard to follow—are they in anyway related to the price of oil at any given time? I’ll find out and get back to you on that.)
But there is one thing I am sure of. And that is that following random-ass people online has absolutely changed my life.