Times are weird these days, my friend. Hashtag activism is a real thing and it’s taken over us. A protest doesn’t have to mean tear gas in your eyes, placards and dangerous demonstration, from the comfort of your sofa, charming coffee bar or any place with Wi-Fi you can show solidarity with a trending cause. Hashtag activism is explained by some as “as a wave of superficial momentary sentimentality” and it’s not easy to see why; we latch on to a trending topic to score points.
According to some, these are not our girls, they are daughters of parents in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria and they are in a personal crisis and feel anguish on a daily basis.
The effectiveness of a hashtag will be a debate for years on end becoming a wedge between old school mothers and Blackberry-obsessed daughters. One thing we can’t ignore is the power of social media to connect people and shape public opinion. Whether you’re posting a picture online to seem like you care at all, just know all the tweets helped bring attention to the plight of those girls and their families. The problem that some of us on the continent have is that this international interest gives a reason for US troops to establish bases here and what we know is when they set up, they don’t leave. Conspiracies are now rife that this is an Iraq situation where the countries oil reserves are the target. Many times before we have seen invasions in the name of good, most recently the Russian occupation in Crimea, where the US took the moral high ground; a curious standing when they have been doing the same thing for years (remember Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan?).
The reality of the situation is Gil Scott Heron’s revolution will be live tweeted and we need to come to terms with that.
For you, the African in a foreign land, it is going to be exceptionally tough for the duration of the #BringBackOurGirls hashtag activism run so I thought I would give you a few tips to come out unscathed.
1. Prepare for sympathisers
As the campaign bullet train gathers steam prepare to be inundated with texts from “concerned” friends about the girls. Because Africa is a country it’s always safe to assume everyone from Africa or has African parents, lives close to the Chibok locale. Do not be alarmed when people ask if one of your relatives is part of the kidnapped girls. An influx of messages and tweets will be a given over the next couple of weeks so enrol in a class of transcendental meditation to keep you from losing your cool.
2. Prepare to be a trophy
I can imagine you are one of the few, if not the only Africans in your group of friends so it’s only right that everyone wants to parade you to gain points. This can be very uncomfortable if you are a second generation migrant who has never set foot on African soil. For a recently relocated African it may be insulting but I promise you, my friend your new friends don’t know any better and you can’t expect them to have knowledge of the intricacies of the Dark Continent. After all The internet… Simply put, prepare to be the token African friend. Photos of you with said friends will start to surface and you’ll get more calls to hangout in places you were never invited to.
3. Lay low
I would advise you keep away from social media at all costs, my friend. The next few weeks there will be debates about the girls; Christians vs. Islams, pro-Nigerian government vs. anti-Nigerian government stances, pro-international intervention vs. Anti-international intervention and many others. It’s best to stay away and find comfort in the bubble you’ve created for yourself. It is certainly not worth the effort to debate on issues that might shape World-Africa relations indefinitely. This is time to kick back and reflect on how much easier you have it compared to people where kidnappings and killings are common place.
4. Milk the cow, my friend
It’s a lovely time to be alive, my friend. Demonstrations held in far off countries on behalf of the Chibok girls are peaceful. If you’re having a bad day, all you have to do is show up with your ‘distraught African’ face and get a free hug from the hundreds of flower children in attendance. Nothing can turn your day around like a warm embrace from a sweaty protester who is trying to save the world one protest at a time.
5. Prepare for slander
For every one person coming out petitioning for assistance from the international community there will be 3 more with rebuttals bordering on racism. From their view point its easy to doubt if the logistical and tactical support will help looking at the poor result of the #StopKony2012 campaign. Luckily, like I have pointed out before, we have a thick skin for insults, from now on a double coat of Slander Deflection Lotion should be applied every hour or two to deal with the unflattering statements that’ll be made by both politicians and lay men on all platforms.
Good luck and stay safe out there, my friend.