September 26th, 2017– twitter grants some users an extended tweet-character limit. Instead of the usual 140 characters, select users can tweet within a 280 character limit. This just a few days after Trump managed to declare war on North Korea via tweet.
I recently returned to Twitter following a friend’s suggestion-admittedly, Twitter provides a great platform for ingesting a lot of information quickly. On top of this- users pre-select what they want to be ingesting- unlike on Facebook, where you’ll likely need to sift through a lot of content. You can follow your favourite reporters, organizations, start-ups, and, of course- your friends. If you don’t feel like following on a permanent basis, searching hashtags makes it easy to keep up with trending topics. Using hashtags with a public account lets you contribute to trending topics- if you have something you need to say, you can easily say it and it’ll be at least seen, if not shared.
Coincidentally, I stopped using twitter shortly after the 2016 US Presidential Election. The intensity of “bad vibes” in the twittosphere was really starting to get to me. To be honest, I didn’t really expect to be back.
“out-of-touch”- but on a touch screen
Last week, the city of Calgary had it’s municipal election, re-electing incumbent Naheed Nenshi for a third term in office. In the days leading up to the election, it was unclear whether the muslim mayor would clear another victory in cowboy country. Despite his fans, the outspoken twitter master has at least a few critics. Speaking to this, Sean Kelso, Director of Communications and Media Relations for the Calgary Flames tweeted:
“I can’t believe it YYC. Having @nenshi as mayor is worse than @realDonaldTrump being president. #arrogant #bracefordisaster #outoftouch”
There’s this whole fiasco between the Calgary Flames and Nenshi re: funding a new hockey arena in Calgary that definitely factored into the manufacture of this tweet but likely isn’t the full picture. Calgary saw its largest voter turnout in 4 decades for Nenshi to secure his seat by a fairly narrow margin. The economic downturn exposed Nenshi’s administration to extra scrutiny and gave his contenders a platform. For a few minutes, Nenshi’s “progressive, artsy, New West” branding seemed to be very at odds with Calgary’s “traditional’ brand- cowboy, conservative, and slightly redneck.
For those of us watching from afar, it was difficult to tell how this would play out. So many Calgarian millennials (like me) have exited the city, forfeiting their ballots and left watching things play out over twitter. Nonetheless, political professors speculated that the youth vote probably worked in Nenshi’s favour to maintain the status quo.
Responding to a question about Kelso’s tweet, Nenshi said the following: “I have no idea who this person this is, I’ve never met him, and boy, what an out-of-touch tweet to send.”
polls and poor ppl
**excerpt of a conversation, between a bro duo. Kenyan**
“what do you mean you didn’t vote last time? So you’re just part of the problem.”
“bro its not safe though. Voting at school is a bad idea.”
“but you didn’t do it. You didn’t do your part”
“I couldn’t. ..the police…”
“You’re just as bad as these twitter activists. Just tweet about a fuss but don’t even go to the polls!”
“no okay – you know what- listen. In 2013 I stood to poll at 4 am. Couldn’t even vote until almost 12 hours later”
“That’s what polling is. So only those who can stand will vote. Not these rich twitter people. Politics is for the poor.”
I’m at Artcaffe for the third time in 24 hours, having lived out most of my last few days in the Mall. The Mall-great place for expats or people with money to indulge in stuff that you probably cant find in the county. Other things you can do in the Mall: eat at a bunch of other coffee shops, buy some ugly clothing, remove your body hair, generally people watch. Use some free wifi that operates at a pretty low speed, scout for your next husband. There’s also a book store and a DVD store, if you need either of those things.
If you’re me, operating at extremes is default mode. To go from no shower, living on white bread, spending less than 5 dollars a day, celebrating the rain, chickens as companions and sexism as your main rival to rooftop pool bars, shisha, private cars, suits, 24/7 security, cursing the rain and *still* sexism as your main rival should seem like a shock to the system. It’s not. Keeping one foot firmly planted in each of these worlds-which usually never intersect and probably never will- you can do a little shuffle when you need to. The consequence? No matter where I am, I can count on being at least 50% misunderstood, with at least 50% chance of offense given. If you’re doing this kind of shuffle frequently, you’re more or less comfortable with either extreme. Becoming a chameleon has its merits- you can blend when you need to, you don’t cause a scene, and you can pass through life comfortably and peacefully.
My perceptions of “normal” are always blurry, though. What I count as safe, is not the same definition as the one my friends and family would use. What I count as expensive, is not the same as what my friends and family would deem expensive. What I count as ‘a good meal ‘ is not the same as what my neighbours might describe. And what I count as prejudice is never synonymous with the definitions of those around me.
I can’t complain about any of this, because its privilege that affords me this position and it’s no one’s fault that complexity of identity is invisible to the eye. This doesn’t change the fact that I’m frustrated on the daily- frustrated by the extremes of the values and politics entrenched in each of these worlds, frustrated by assumptions, and frustrated that my power to change either of these things is limited. Most of all, I’m frustrated by what limits me most: the status quo which makes it easiest for me to continue with business as usual, not ruffling feathers, laying low, and (often) playing dumb.
What this all ultimately boils down to, what prompted this existential crisis, is politics. The Kenyan re-election takes place tomorrow, after several weeks of back and forth on what’s fair, how to proceed democratically, and no real conclusions. There’s been a lot of fancy footwork, resulting in the brakes being put on pretty much all other functions in the cities. There’s been an awful lot of protest (mostly peaceful), met by police brutality and violence that causes everyone to hold their breath. If you’re on the opposition- you just want a free and fair vote and are sick of a broken system. The purpose of protest is to stall something undemocratic- isn’t it? If you’re with the incumbent- you’re sick of the political charade and it’s damper effect on the economy. The vote should be over and done with and the results ratified- shouldn’t it? On the whole no one overseas talks about how this is just yet another re-run- two sons of Independence-era leaders going head to head, independence-era leaders driven ideologically apart thanks to external Cold War influences and ethnic tensions.
Add to this the fact that the ballot system currently in place can’t physically or legitimately support the number of voters, queues reach ridiculously long lengths, and fear of violence at the polls (mirroring 2007 violence) will keep many voters away- it seems like there’s no way out of the stalemate. Unless you count Odinga’s solution to “slay the cat”: boycotting the ballot, boycotting any companies associated with the ruling party (eg. the nation’s jewel, Safaricom) – and generally kicking up the dust indefinitely. What’s worse, it’s hard to follow what’s happening on a day to day- the press is either a) biased b) can barely keep up or c) regurgitative.
Fortunately for me, a friend of mine recommended I download Twitter a few months ago. For any new updates, I have #ElectionsKE, #PollPreparedness and #IEBC. I get reminders from Kenyatta and the IEBC to #vote (fine print: sponsored). And after just over a month of being a loyal Safaricom customer, my WhatsApp network keeps me in the circuit of video and picture content Google and my TV can’t supply. In summary;
Sending out a very big virtual (and real) prayer for Kenya, democracy, and the free press tonight. x