Social Media: Jokes, Like Everything Else In Life, Have Limits

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Just joking. Are you really? Image from http://ru.memegenerator.net/instance/23683479

A few days ago, I was deeply embarrassed of being Kenyan. I was seated in traffic and on impulse, I decided to check what was trending on twitter. I saw #KenyaVSSouthAfrica. Now, if you are familiar with twitter, then you know about the twitter wars that go on between countries… most times it’s about countries showing off, in good humor, what they have that makes them better than the ‘rival country’. But I think we are becoming sick and unreasonable because these twitter wars (and social media in general) sometimes becomes about very sensitive issues with absolutely no empathy. Perhaps because they are meant to be insults rather than jokes in the first place?

Just joking. Are you really? Image from http://ru.memegenerator.net/instance/23683479
Just joking. Are you really? Image from http://ru.memegenerator.net/instance/23683479

On #KenyaVSSouthAfrica I saw profiles of adult-looking Kenyans making jokes about HIV prevalence in South Africa and actually hoping to be funny and to make Kenya look better. I kept on refreshing the page, hoping that the offending ‘tweeps’ would realise their mistake and pull down their tweet but no. Several days later, the tweets are still there. Who knew stupidity and ignorance could reside in one body so peacefully!

There is just something wrong about trying to make jokes out of very sensitive issues especially if you are an adult. You might want to theorise about how all topics can be joked about depending on execution but truth is, there are things that will mar your image if you put them out there as jokes. Yes, social media in this age of fundamental freedom of speech, gives us space to write whatever we think and hide behind fake names to insult people. But if we can pause each time before hitting ‘post’, then probably we can avoid causing our neighbours so much pain and looking illiterate in the process.

Here are some of the occasions when I think that we should be able to shove the allure to just use the internet irresponsibly and use our intellect, instead.

  • Sexual harassment

I lost count of the number of times I have seen people joking about sexual harassment. One of the most recent cases that I have heard is the story of Ken wa Mwangi who took to his social media page to talk about young girls’ privates. Now, if we can forget for a minute the idiocy of his post and go straight to the comments he received, you will begin to realise that in deed, the 8-4-4 system of education must go. Do we have any capacity to think at all or we just click ‘like’ and ‘share’ without considering the message that we are sharing?

  • Religion

It is very hard to have a conversation about religion because at the very least, it is likely to polarise a group as each side tries to justify or make their side look better. Why am I even going far? A debate about the different Christian denominations is likely to flare up passions so I do not know why anyone would want to joke about this on social media. As an educated and civilized individual, remember that at all times, that you have a responsibility to reason. Do not go to a post where people are having a conversation about their religion and begin to make jokes. It is rude and just inappropriate.

  • Terror Attacks

I was surprised that Kenyans could still find a way to make jokes about the terror attack that happened in Garissa University in April of 2015. Do we really have to go through a tragedy for us to understand that it is a painful thing? One of my lecturers would say: “If you do not have shame, some of us do.”

  • Gender

I think this becomes problematic because sometimes we are not sure whether you are just joking or actually stating your opinion about the other gender. Remember that joke about a key that opens many doors being a master key? I forget what they said about the lock that has been opened by many keys. It can be really uncomfortable to joke about the other gender especially if this may come off as offensive. I personally get uncomfortable when jokes about men are made basing on stereotypes… and I am a woman, although not the emotional one, so if you make stupid jokes about women, I get dismayed at your ignorance.

Basically the rule is think before you tweet or post on social media. You might be trying to get cool points but those updates in the end show you for who you really are. And no we don’t believe you when you say it was just a joke.

Related – We Need To Declare War On Stereotypes: Here Is Why

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