Children’s playgrounds are wondrous façades, filled with more subtext and surprise than an episode of Twin Peaks. What looks like a voluntarily good time hides undercurrents of malice, friend-stealing and cold-shouldering. No wonder we’re so naturally adept at social media.
This used to be my playground
If you say something on Twitter that doesn’t sit perfectly with another’s own Weltanschauung, you’re a cretin. Some may even go as far as to say a troll. But are you? With its 232 million active users, Twitter is just digital graffiti; a ‘wall’ to express every thought upon as if the world had been dying to know it all along. But here’s the clincher: it’s public, so every tweet must be considered an invitation for dialogue. You may not intend it as so, but you tweeted it, so you must accept it as so.
Today was one that brought earnest heartbreak to 49 million people (and then some!). Last night, our venerated Captain, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – the closest thing to proof of God’s existence if ever there was – died. And you know what? It feels like the whole country is still holding its breath… The statements and condolence-commiserations on news and social media sites have been respectfully regal, even in their numbness… And numb we are. Still, I saw, heard, felt and read such untainted honesty in people’s reactions to this deeply moving moment in history, and honesty should never have to be questioned… except when it looks like this:
What a pity that such gravity should invite such naïve perspective. Contrary to your affront Lionel, they didn’t fly a voice over artist out from Los Angeles just to piss you off. 5FM is a brand. The American voice over guy has been doing their links for years and, as a brand, he is part of its identity. So on a day of mourning and ironic solidarity, when we should be embracing the opportunity to come together one last time for the man who set it in motion for us to begin with, you chose to bleat about that. Did it add any value to the gentle conversations around Nelson Mandela’s death? No.
wtf is that?
That is a troublemaker, because here’s the thing Dory: when you have thousands of followers, you hold the potential to set other unthinking people off on some remarkably pointless albeit flammable crusade (anyone remember the Woolworths won’t hire white staff debacle?).
So in the spirit of dialogue, I pointed out:
On the same night that Madiba passed away, Paris had lit up the Eiffel tower in the South African flag’s colours, yet buildings here today were still flying the flag at full mast. That’s disrespect to me. How 5FM pre-promo’s upcoming content is not.
Sure, my incredulosity may seem unbalanced. My only excuse is this bottomless frustration I have with voluntarily stupid people. This is because they are a) stupid and / or b) voluntarily stupid. After some lamaze, I deduced that Lionel was just
stupid thin on content, but when prompted with my theory, he declined to comment. And by declined to comment, I mean passive-aggressively continued to slag me off in a one-way convo with without directing any of it at me.
Ergo… I too am giving unnecessary airtime to someone who openly thinks the same of me as I now do of him.
But wait … because here’s the real meaty stuff: People who like to use the word ‘cretin’? Depends on how old you are. I believe it was super popular back when people watched Twin Peaks, 5FM was still called Radio 5 and used, no doubt, a different voice over guy. Urban Dictionary defines ‘cretin’ as a brainless person who makes no sense, except of course to other cretins. A right pair our Lionel and I would be. Oh the fun we’d have meeting for a spot of dinner and world-problem-solving! I bet a chinwag with Lionel would include plenty “…no offence, but…” sentence starters, “…needless to say…” conjunctions and “…at the end of the day…” summations.
No offence Lionel, but I say do what all little girls do and get a diary for those poignant proclamations. With its little lock and key, no cretin shall upset your panty twist again.
And that’s the end of mine.
Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba.
© Dylan Balkind