In Summary

MOVERS OF THE WIRE. Without a doubt, social media has been around for the past years but something changed this year with more people joining different platforms and using them for different reasons. Esther Oluka explores the different ways social media has made an impact this year.

The catfights
Most of our parents and grandparents will tell you that in the past when issues occurred in their marriages or relationships, they met and resolved them amicably on a roundtable. Such talks were confined within the home. It’s not the case today. Rather than couples resolving their issues discreetly, many are increasingly addressing them on social media.
This year, we have witnessed a number of verbal exchanges among couples with accusations of adultery, mistrust and getting children out of wedlock. A notable example is that of socialite, Zari Hassan whose relationship with Tanzanian singer Diamond Platnumz has been subject to numerous cheating allegations, courtesy of posts made by both parties. Zari was also locked up in a Facebook brawl with Hamisa Mobeto, a video vixen Platnumz had a baby boy with.

It is not only prominent people who have engaged in these catfights, but also less known people as well. From time to time, one may come across posts both on Facebook and Whatsapp between wives and mistresses exchanging insults among themselves or even a girlfriend of some guy cautioning the other girls to back off her man. From the look of things, these fights are still part of us and getting more public.

The slay queens emerge
One of the infectious habits women have been engaged in this year is posting photographs of themselves on different social media sites. Posting photographs is not the issue but some of these women and young girls want to project an impression that they are living fabulous lives and yet in reality, they are not. For instance, a girl who posts a photo standing beside a Lamborghini and yet it’s not even hers. Then, there are those who claim to be having either dinner or lunch at expensive places such as Kampala Serena Hotel yet in reality, they don’t even know where such places are located. Ask them where the Serena is and they will remain anganzi (confused). How about those frequently flaunting expensive outfits from renowned fashion labels and jewellery on Facebook and Instagram? A term was coined for these girls; they are “slay queens”.

The urban dictionary defines them as young and naïve girls who apparently do not date broke men. They spend hours on SnapChat and Instagram showing off things they do not even own. They do not have a wealthy background but appear as if they do. But back home she is a chicken chaser. Nowadays, the men too have jumped into the bandwagon. We now call them “slay kings”.

More of a marketing tool nowadays
Many business owners are utilising different social media platforms to reach out to a number of clients. It is where many business owners have attained their big breaks. For instance, Fatuma Asha, a fashion designer got her lucky break when she put her brand on social media about two years ago. Asha has dressed a number of Ugandan celebrities including Rema Namakula, a musician and Hellen Lukoma, an actress have been some of her noted customers.
Just like Asha, many others are advertising their products and services on social media, which strategy has improved respective businesses. Travel and tour agencies as well as hotels and resorts have particularly been aggressive in selling their services on social media.

A tool for activism, advocacy and criticism
A number of personalities have continuously used social media for a good cause. This year, we have seen the likes of Dr Stella Nyanzi, an academic researcher and activist aggressively campaign for sanitary pads for underprivileged girls with the hash tag #PadsforGirlsUganda campaign. This was in response to the first lady, Janet Museveni’s comment that government lacked the money to buy them. Dr Nyanzi used her Facebook page to solicit for the campaign but also to condemn the first lady and president himself, criticism that saw her getting arrested and charged for offensive communication. Upon her detention, Facebook followers started a hashtag dubbed, #FreeStellaNyanzi and a page created to pressure government to release her. Today, Dr Nyanzi is out of jail but still battling a court case.

The other notable campaign was the togikwatako campaign aimed at stopping the amendment of article 102 (b) of the 1995 Constitution that put a lower and upper age limit of 35 and 75 respectively for eligibility to run for president. The age limit debate was settled on December 20 when MPs voted 317 against 97 to amend this clause of the Constitution. Earlier, social media had been the pace outside Parliament where debate on the age limit raged for months. In September after MPs fought on the floor of Parliament, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) banned live coverage of the debate, taking some life out of social media.

The other new social media terms
Besides the slay queens, the other words that have been predominately used on different social media platforms include; “you have made it in life”, which is a rather sarcastic way of indirectly praising someone who has attained a particular level of success. The other is “fake news”!
Although fake news was a favourite term used by Donald Trump, the current US president during the 2016 presidential campaign, the word stayed around in 2017. Numerous sites on social media continue publishing fictitious stories which fool readers. Sometimes, readers may actually think that the information is authentic until they visit a trusted news website for clarification. Some of the fake news this year has revolved around resignations, relationship breakups and even death of famous personalities.

A tool for bragging about achievements

Like in the previous years, many people continue using social media for mentioning their achievements. Posting about a milestone in your life is not a bad thing but it becomes annoying when one is constantly doing it. Some people even brag about it. For instance, a woman posts something, “My fiancé is better than yours,” because he has given you an engagement ring? Or you get a new car and keep throwing it to followers faces that you now have a new ride. How about couples who constantly post lovey-dovey pictures trying to project an image of the perfect couple and yet behind closed doors, they cannot stand each other. It is funny that some couples only do this in order to win the approval of other people. One wonders, what happened to privacy?

Instrumental in breaking news
In the past, people relied on traditional media, especially broadcast for breaking news. It’s not the case anymore. News today breaks very fast on social media. Something happens and within seconds, it spreads like wildfire on different social media sites. This is because many people have smartphones which provide access to different social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Whatsapp, among others. On these different platforms, one may break a story and accompany it with a photograph.

In March, when Andrew Felix Kaweesi, the former police spokesperson and Assistant Inspector General of Police was shot dead in Kulambiro, Nakawa Division in Kampala alongside his bodyguard Kenneth Erau and driver, Godfrey Wambewo, the news was broken instantly on social media complete with disturbing photos taken by different people at the scene.
Away from police to music, Irene Ntale, a musician, at the beginning of the year stunned her fans when she posted on her official Facebook page that she was quitting her record label, Swangz Avenue to pursue a solo singing career. Also, when flamboyant socialite, Ivan Ssemwanga passed away in the month of May, Zari Hassan, the mother of his children made the announcement on her Facebook page. These are all clear indications of how people are using social media to break and news to their respective followers.

The live chats
This year, a number of people, especially public figures have utilised Facebook chats to connect and have engaging conversations with their audience. Sometimes, the live chats have been intended to clear the air on a particular issue at hand or give one’s side of the story. Social critic, Frank Gashumba is one of those prominent people who use live chat alone. After his arrest over alleged impersonation, his daughter Sheila Gashumba revealed what happened to her father via a Facebook live chat but he also later came out to deny the allegations surrounding his arrest.
Renowned musician, Juliana Kanyomozi who hardly gives media interviews these days is also a frequent user of Facebook live chats.