In Summary
  • In fact, the social media has so much become anything but social that Jenerali Ulimwengu – a prominent lawyer, journalist and social commentator – recently declared to have opted out of Facebook which, he said, had become anti-social.

Social media might go by the adjective “social”, but, going by how we use it in Tanzania, it is anything but social.

In fact, the social media has so much become anything but social that Jenerali Ulimwengu – a prominent lawyer, journalist and social commentator – recently declared to have opted out of Facebook which, he said, had become anti-social.

Social media has become a modern-day version of the proverbial ‘Tower of Babel’ where everyone can shout ‘FIRE’ – and get away with it. And shout they really do...

No matter how nice we want to pretend we are as Tanzanians, the fact of the matter is that social media is where our true, base nature comes to the fore.

Recently, a prominent lady commentator said she learned through the social media that her blood-brother had died. The information was spreading like wildfire in the social media system well before the hospital called her to break the news to her – stale news, at that.

When Mark Zuckerberg founded the American online social media and networking service company – and launched its website on February 4, 2004 – I’m sure he didn’t intend it to become a platform for all manner of engagements: the serious, the family kind and even the fiery war zone that seems to dominate debates through harsh hashtag battles.

We’re going to see more of that on our own shores this year from our very own Mange Kimambi who currently dominates hashtags and attention.

Nothing goes unsaid on her popular Instagram account. If there was ever a need to do a Master’s degree thesis on how and what to mobilise through social media, Ms Kimambi’s Instagram stardom would make an interesting case study.

The challenge, though, is what standards we would ascribe in discussing a Mange Kimambi Instagram account – especially when you wouldn’t wish some of the stuff posted there on your worst political adversary.

It’s not too far off the mark to say that her instantaneous stardom was born out of more than that of any “Hamisi, Samueli or Kainerubaga” would know about.

As the Mange stardom soars, another social media account which had in its heyday painted its pages red – and attracted leading advertisers – seems to be on its knees today.

Once upon a time a compelling source of news of the high and mighty in Tanzania, the Issa Michuzi blog is no longer the page which Tanzanians in the Diaspora almost compulsorily visited.

To me, the fate of these two blogs – Mange’s and Issa’s – are intertwined by their readers. These two social media interlocutors make for a great study on what’s a successful social media, what drives them, and what would make them sustainable.

In my view, both their approaches are unsustainable for one major reason. While the one depended for its success on the owner’s proximity to the powers-that-be, the other is hooked onto deep hatred of everyone and anything within the corridors of state power.

The bile spewed out in there is toxic. It’s not my place to judge anyone; I’m simply pointing out that, at some point in time, it must come to an end – and its millions of followers get unhooked.

For a social media blog to remain relevant, it must stick to subjects-matter and not to personalities. A blog that intends to sell news must remain firm on news content. If it veers away into being a praise singer’s page, it will get swept away when the floodgates are opened in a regime or other major change.

All in all, however, social media blogs can be very useful in changing the lives of ordinary Tanzanians in one direction or another in these extraordinary times.

Also, recent legislative frameworks on the media may change the face of blogging forever. But, whether the change will be for the better or for the worse remains to be seen – and will be a story for another day.