Monthly Archives: August 2013

Lessons From My Twitter Detox

Twitter is a fascinating platform. At its very best it delights and instructs. It is also a formidable networking tool. It is a bridge to worlds and people you would otherwise never have the pleasure of interacting with. It breaks and covers news at such a swift pace “old media” can’t keep up as witnessed during the “Arab Spring” and other revolutions around the world. Twitter is also great for raw commentary on other live events like sports instantly placing your fingers on the pulse of your hand picked community. At its worst Twitter can feel like the mental equivalent of dozens of people talking into your ear all at once. It feels superfluous, a platform for the narcissistic and banal.

 For me Twitter has been a conduit for more good than bad. I have a hyperactive brain and an almost insatiable need for information. Twitter makes me feel like I am not alone in my thinking. Occasionally somebody on my timeline mirrors my own mindset. They condense and articulate my spirit in a great joke, epigram or apercu. A lot of the times when I tweet I am just talking to myself. Twitter gives voice to the introvert in me. Twitter gives my overactive mind an arena for it to do its acrobatics. The problem with acrobatic shows with no referee or rules is that you can do significant harm to yourself or others.

Whilst Twitter is a great way to share and expose myself to a variety of ideas I have come to the realization that this constant exposure isn’t always necessarily  conducive to a sense of balance, stability or  ideas being able to take root. By the time I read something compelling on one website, there is another article being praised on my timeline. There is always another issue to be outraged about, something else to critique or another celebrity scandal that warrants stepping on the digital soapbox. There is always something to say or consume. That is the deceptive thing about Twitter. It can make you feel as if you’re actually doing something, even if you’re not. It not only serves as the distracter in chief, but is one of procrastination’s strongest allies.

Twitter has helped my writing in many ways. Twitter democratizes expression and gives a necessary public to writer’s, and types of writing, that otherwise would be confined to the hard drive. I am no exception. Following and interacting with other writer’s has helped me grow as a writer. It serves as a sounding board for my ideas. Some of my tweets have been the first drafts of the pieces I have written. The 140 character has somewhat tamed the rambler in me, schooling me on brevity and wit. On Twitter I have consciously curated my timeline to ensure the mélange of personalities and organizations I follow mentally stimulate me in a variety of ways. There are the people who tweet obscure yet fascinating and illuminating links to longer reads. The people who keep me updated on the latest developments in the worlds of Hip Hop, F1 and Manchester United. The writer’s who inspire me.  Finally, there were those who professed ideologies are diametrically opposed to mine but have a compelling way of conveying them.

Despite all this I quietly worried that inhabiting a 140-character universe meant my thoughts and writing were becoming staccato. Twitter was slowly eroding the patience and care I applied to my writing. It wasn’t as symbiotic as I needed it to be. There was an immediacy, automatism and compulsiveness, that I found becoming more and more disturbing. This all came to a head recently when a friend was telling me something and I found myself thinking to myself. ‘I don’t remember seeing that on Twitter”. Not to mention moments when something would happen and I would mentally step out of the moment to wittily capture the moment in a tweet.

A little over a week ago I made an active decision to take a step back from Twitter. I was in a losing battle for my soul and sanity. I need to revaluate my relationship with Twitter. I decided “F*ck hashtags and retweets. 140 character’s in these streets.” It was time for a Twitter detox. The premise was simple. No tweeting.

 Stepping out of the information cyclone that I had helped foster meant my thought process slowed down because I was exposed to less. The detox has been far from simple. The more I have been away from Twitter the more tweet worthy my experiences have seemed. So it’s been harder not to tweet. I have had my 10 year old cousin staying at my house. Engaging with him without distractions has been a fulfilling experience. I have been encouraged by his candidness and childlike curiosity. He reminded me of the vibrancy and beauty that exists in the world outside of these pixelated screens.

My detox reminded me that I needed to sit more. Sit with my thoughts. Sit at restaurants with family and friends without scrolling through my phone. Sit with disruptive emotions until there was some form of resolution (or not). Either way sitting and slowing down was a welcome change from the constant connectivity and speed.  The most important lesson I can take away from my Twitter detox is the need to strike a balance between the 140 characters in these streets and the 140 characters in tweets. I am determined to make Twitter work for me and not the other way round.

 Twitter, can’t live with it. Can’t live without it.

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Posted by on August 31, 2013 in Uncategorized


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My Experience As A First Time Voter In Zimbabwe

Yesterday, for the first time in my life I queued up with thousands of other citizens of across the many corners of  Zimbabwe to exercise my democratic and constitutional right to vote. At the crack of dawn I found myself braving the chilly and drizzly weather so that I could do my part and have my say in the future and direction this country will take in the next 5 years. Yesterday I voted in Zimbabwe’s harmonized elections to choose it’s  President, Members of Parliament and Local Councilors as well as bring an end to the coalition government that had been running the country since the disputed and violence marred elections of 2008.

When I arrived at the polling station at Baring Primary school in Mutare just after 6am I was inspired and encouraged to see quite a number of mostly young Zimbabweans already queued up. Some had been at the polling station since as early 4am. Despite the cold weather the enthusiasm and optimism amongst the waiting electorate made me feel warm and fuzzy. The general atmosphere in the queue was vibrant, cordial and ironically apolitical.

 I was also lucky enough to be standing just a few metres away from a man who was to be our entertainer in chief for the day. Throughout the whole time I was waiting for my turn to cast my vote he was regaling everyone around him with hilarious stories and anecdotes about the perils of philandering, witchcraft and a host of other subjects. Behind me I couldn’t help but overhear a group of young men debate whether it was worth spending US$70 on Converse all star sneaker ‘s when you could get a cheaper knockoff for about US$7. That was as antagonistic as the atmosphere got. Not once did the conversations I was privy to turn political. Neither did I witness or hear of any violence, intimidation or attempts to influence voting during the almost 3 hours that I had to wait to cast my vote. This seemed a far cry from the atmosphere of fear and the stories of intimidation and violence I had read and heard about during the last chaotic vote of 2008. This had resulted in the withdrawal of the main opposition candidate from the second round of elections. All these factors contributed to the whole election process being discredited and necessitated the formation of the coalition government that has been running the country since.

As someone who has lived outside Zimbabwe ever since I was old enough to vote yesterday was a particularly important day for me in my growth as a person. Also having recently returned to my Motherland it was a symbolic and gratifying experience. It was not just the first time at the age of 29 that I got to vote but also the first I got to have a say and be on the ground and not just be an observer in the collective process of determining the destiny of my country. For the first time I was not sitting behind a computer in a foreign land incessantly checking news and social media websites for the often gloomy and disparaging reports about the electoral process and general state of affairs in my beloved Zimbabwe. I was there to witness first hand and participate. I have never felt more Zimbabwean than I felt yesterday in voting booth.  It is also my wish that in the next 5 years God willing I will have started my own family. So it wasn’t just my future that was at stake but I was thinking about the kind of Zimbabwe I would like to settle down and raise my family in.

As a first time voter I tried as best as I practically could to keep an open mind about how I was going to vote. From my personal experience I have learned that politics is an emotive issue. That even the most intellectual and critical thinker’s are prone to being subjective in their political opinions. Objectivity is a rare quality in politics. With that in mind I was determined to make up my own mind and not let anyone not matter how much I respected or loved them  influence my vote. To that end I made it my core business to familiarise myself with the election campaigns of the two main political parties (ZANU (PF) and MDC-T) than had a realistic chance of governing this beautiful country. During this process I found the local media both private and state controlled media reporting sensationalized and extremely partisan. The international media was no different with the exception of Al Jazeera English which I found to be highly professional, balanced and objective in their coverage of the election campaigns and the election itself. CNN, BBC and other international news broadcasters I found to be just as partisan as the local state controlled broadcaster ZBC.

What was encouraging from my own following  of the election campaign though was the repeated and sincere calls from all sides of the political divide to citizens and candidates alike to campaign peaceful and shun the  violence that characterized and marred the last election. A call I felt was heeded across the board which was testament to our growth and levels of political maturity and tolerance as a nation.

It’s the morning after the election.  Whilst I had to wait for 3hours to cast my vote the actual voting process took less than 5 minutes with no glitches. I feel I was given a fair chance to have my say. This seems to have the case from most people I have been in contact with. I have however read of instances were some people were turned away for not being on the voter’s roll or turning up at the wrong polling station. Still I believe the dark cloud of the 2008 has gone and this makes me so proud to be a Zimbabwean.

Both main candidates have said this is the most important election since 1980 when Zimbabwe got it’s independence. For me it is the most important election because I actually played my part and got to have my say. It is also encouraging that the main African Union election observer group has declared the election environment free and fair.  I realise that as voter’s we can’t help but be intrinsically selfish in what we expect to be the outcome. Every voter would like the candidate or party they voted to be the candidate who ends up winning and governing. Unfortunately that is not what happens. The best you can hope for is that the majority voted the same as you. What I hope though is that whatever the outcome whether the candidate I voted for wins or not the wishes of the majority of the people of Zimbabwe are accepted and respected. Because that is how a democracy works.


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Posted by on August 1, 2013 in Uncategorized


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