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How to be on the right side of Twitter discourse

When freedom of speech is used carelessly without a sense of consequence, it results in the ratios we see daily on social media. Here’s some advice on how to live your best life and avoid being dragged online
Author: Ree Ntuli
Thu, Jun 16, 2022

One of the freedoms that democracy has afforded us is the freedom of speech – one of my favourites too, I should mention. The ability to express my innermost feelings without being judged or punished for it is my favourite thing about living in South Africa.

As we commemorate June 16, I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like to live in Apartheid South Africa, where, as a black person, human rights weren’t inclusive of you. Basking in all these freedoms today, it is unfathomable that 46 years ago, blood had to be shed for our right to do a thing as natural as speaking in our God-given languages – to learn and teach in African languages.

We are immensely grateful for those who have gone before us, those whose lives were sacrificed for some of the freedoms we enjoy today.

With rights, of course, come responsibilities, but is this something we are all conscious of? If we are, why is it that some of us seem to suffer from the foot-in-mouth disease more than others?

Why do some Vice Chancellors have to delete tweets and issue apology statements more frequently than others? Why is it that Mayihlome Tshwete must be on perpetual standby because some elder is ‘hacked’ and either their privates or their favourite Pornhub content is plastered all over social media every two weeks oro monthly?

Why do some of our favourite authors end up having to lock their Twitter accounts bimonthly due to being cooked in the replies? Clearly, we aren’t all aware of the responsibilities that come with our rights.

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As always, I am generous with advice on a wide range of issues, whether I follow that advice is neither here nor there really – what matters is my benevolence. This is particularly for those who, unlike me, have had the misfortune of feeling the wrath of social media for their carelessness with words, so here goes:

1. Have Friends

Friends are like mirrors. You don’t leave your house without passing by the mirror to see if the outfit you’re wearing actually corresponds with what you had in mind, right? So why tweet confidently – to scores of merciless strangers at that – about a controversial issue that you have not ventilated with your friends? Do you hate yourself?

2. Read the d*mn room!

Someone is already burning at the stake for the same problematic views you hold, why on earth would you go ahead and express them even though they’re being cooked to hell and back for it? It doesn’t matter how strongly you feel about beating kids until they’re blue in face. Jesus has already died on the cross for you, there is no need for a second sacrifice, I promise you.

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3. The wheels of justice turn slowly but grind exceedingly fine

The South African economy has hands for days as it is, and court cases are long and expensive, so unless you have R200,000 lying around, leave Bonang’s name out of your mouf! No entertainment career is worth sacrificing your pension for. Rein in your aspirations of spreading unverified gossip or it will end in tears for you.

4. Domestic workers have rights now

This may partly be a commemoration piece, but please, Apartheid is over. It’s not 1976 anymore and domestic workers are people now – they’ve been people since democracy. So, you might want to go to your search engine, type ‘domestic worker’ and your handle and DELETE the horrors that come up because one thing about the Twitter detectives? They WILL dig, and it hasn’t ended well for countless people.

We all have the right to speak our minds, but that right can be very narrow in public platforms – use it wisely.