Hashtags, Comment Threads and Re-tweets: The Emergence of Young Voices and Alternative Communicative Practices for Socio-Political Change at the Time of COVID-19 in South Africa
Social media platforms continue to play an increasingly significant constitutive role in organising individuals and Collective Action movements both on a local and global level. The use of social media for social activism and mobilisation by young South Africans has also risen in recent years. Ordinary young citizens have taken up to themselves the task of uplifting and helping their fellow citizens with the challenges they face in their daily lives. It is no secret that ordinary citizens still find it difficult to connect with government leaders, political representatives and managers of multinational companies either for laying complaints, reporting unfair treatment and to discuss issues of social injustice. The rise of social media has led to the emergence of alternative communicative practices that provide opportunities for agency and a space where social media users are able to resist the socio-political and systematic structural constraints that impede ordinary citizens’ social upward mobility. This paper therefore, seeks to study the emergence of young thought leaders in the South African social media landscape by using three examples of online Collective Action (CA) groups that assist citizens to voice out their opinions by using hashtags, comment threads and retweets. These include the following; O Jewa Ke Eng? (What’s Bothering You?), #Covid19SA and #LockdownSA social movements that thrived on Twitter prior and during the Covid-19 global pandemic. The last two examples are directly linked to the COVID-19 pandemic while the first one offers a glimpse of how social media comment threads can be used to assist citizens with their daily challenges - with some comments relating to COVID-19. The study aims to find out what role(s) if any, do these movements play in providing active citizens with alternative means to discuss solutions for ordinary citizens, and whether or not this role can yield to any increased political participation.
Mncedi Eddie Magade