Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Social Media, Amirite?

 Y'all, while I was away a lot happened in the Tanzanian social media sphere. Much of it is great, much of it is bad- we are in keeping with global trends in this sphere. So there I was planning to totally blog on the weekend and get things warmed up again. 

But in the back of my mind I had an issue brewing. That of cyberbullying. A friend was going through a very messed up situation and I was quietly meditating on why, what could be done in such circumstances, a whole bunch of factors. 

So on Friday just as I am thinking "Oh, I should select a fun topic for The Mikocheni Report" and going about my day: smack! Got popped right in the face with some Tweets reacting to piece I wrote in The East African a while back. Initially I was pretty open to "dialogue" because I never get feedback on Twitter about the stuff I do on the East African. But then the day and the conversation progressed and I realized this was actually not a good thing. 

Everyone who writes for public consumption gets used to feedback as a part of the job. It is valuable, it is a way to keep a finger on the pulse of things, of finding out how things are going, of getting loads more information and making connections, sometimes even making friends. "Negative" feedback is very important in identifying gaps in your knowledge and 99% of the time it is offered for free by an expert in the field who took the time to write to you and provide evidence, data, articles and so on. Seriously, you would not believe how many experts in various fields a decade of opinion can garner one.  

But there is the other kind of negative feedback: that with malicious intent. Occasionally it is personal: someone just doesn't like you. Which is normal, right? No big. Easily handled. Malicious intent as part of a larger campaign around a controversial topic? Different story. If you're not careful with that stuff you can get dragged by your dreadlox into a very nasty space with no reasonable way out. 

My social media is active, I tend to respond to people who @ me which is not the wisest policy but I feel it keeps the door open. Obviously if you keep the door open anyone can walk in tho. But here's the thing: Mark Zuckerberg is younger than me. Twitter came online in the mid-2000s. I grew up playing video games that had to be loaded of a cassette tape and have learned how to mistype with both thumbs. I might know a thing or two about how to avoid being dragged by my dreadlox into a nasty space.

On the other side of being called a cyberbully, I have to wonder about the whole experience. Evidently it is great fodder for an eventual piece on gender and cyberbullying (it is not a straightforward thing, that) as part of commentary on the changing online landscape in Tanzania and beyond. On a  personal level it was a great check on how well the whole anger management effort is going. Once upon a time I was a chill and easygoing person. And then I was not. Now I am getting back to the Zen zone again and it was nice to get tested on that over the weekend.

Long story short: this is why the first real post on TMR in a long time isn't really a cool piece about something interesting as was originally intended. But it is also perfect because it reminded me that very few of my plans when it comes to blogging ever work out as anticipated. I guess that's just the House Style as it were. TMR may never manage to become a serious, planned out, consistently structured blog... thank God.

Y'all keep safe out there, especially online, y'hear?  

Sunday, July 10, 2022

1527 Days: 4 Years, Two Months and a Week.

In my last real blogpost published on May 3rd of 2018, I said the following:

Tanzania has passed laws and regulations this year requiring bloggers to register and pay a punitive fee in order to keep offering their content. The flimsy excuse is taxation. The real reason is standard restriction of free speech. The Tanzanian blogosphere is too minute to generate anything worth taxing, but it has punched above its weight lately.

So it is with a clean heart that I announce the icing of the Mikocheni Report. Reader, you already knew it was coming.

I say icing because in truth I have no idea what these regulations actually mean and I need time to see. Also...ten years. I am going to take a break. Maybe new opportunities will come along. Maybe there will be an evolution. There is a lot of maybe right now. Maybe the blog is just...on ice?

What I really want to say is thank you. For reading. It is hard for me to explain how essential writing is in my life. do you explain bone marrow? Since I was a child the world has been rendered in terms of the word. Word is life.”

I stopped blogging out of protest, having amassed enough of a readership by then to be able to leverage this move as a signal that all was not well with my country. It worked better than I had hoped considering TMR is just one woman’s little corner of the internets. Thank you for that.

So here we are again.

A few months ago, President Samia Suluhu Hassan mentioned in one of her speeches that Hon. Nape Nnauye, the Minister for Information, should look into the laws and regulations on online content to make it easier for more Tanzanians to participate in the online conversation. This should apparently preceed a move to overhaul the current Information Act. Because Mama Samia said it in public, I was assured that this meant an easing of the restrictions that led to my pausing the blogging in the first place. But I did not blog immediately.

A lot happened between 2018 and 2022. I turned 40 somewhere in there, praise be. I have now “eaten some salt” as we might say in Kiswahili. The salt of sweat, the salt of tears? The expression never specifies. In that time I lost several “innocences” as well as trust in Tanzania’s leadership class. So no, I did not blog immediately. These days my position is to be cautious, patient, strategic where possible- all of which is a lot easier in one’s fourth decade on Terra than in one’s second or third.

Instead of firing up TMR, I waited. I asked. And asked again. Then triangulated to be sure. Then waited some more to see what might happen to other bloggers. The scene in Tanzania is a wasteland: everyone is on Medium or a shared platform or social media, or technically located “elsewhere” in the ether of the World Wide Web. No point in taking risks- I had made my point and several platforms very generously offered me a couch to crash on during my self-exile from blogging.

It has been imperative to know for sure whether blogging again on this platform would be okay. Not just safe, but okay and understood. Tanzania is not what it was prior to 2015. It will never be like that again. Our culture of Presidentialism might convince you to put the blame on the shoulders of one deceased man but it is not so. This is a paradigm shift in which we all participated in, one way or another. We all made choices. We live with them.

I am still learning how to navigate these new environs. I move slower in my mind and in my feelings: scar tissue.

Sometimes my sleep breaks in the night and I think of a poem that writes about “floating belly-up from the depths” yet try as I might I cannot recollect it nor who wrote it. Sometimes I don’t know I was dreaming and I laugh easily, only to wake up to another day in 2022. For the longest I simply didn’t get out of bed. Better that way, frankly. And yet, my stubborn soul has cleaved to the promise I made myself when I was a child: live. Live it all, live it to the fullest of your being, live greedy for experiences, live. And in that living, write.

So here we are again.

I built this shelter with my own two hands because material things come and go, as do people. But words? Words. Words are a record and my records give me the comfort of a sense of place: somewhere to go that is mine. A Blog of her own. I had to leave it for a while but I am back now. I am home. The Mikocheni Report is online.  

Hello. Shall we… dance? Cheek to Cheek?


Saturday, July 9, 2022

Loading 2022...

Power up: Good Morning, Author. It is Saturday, 9th of July, 2022 CE.  

Wetware: Running Diagnostics. 

Hardware: Running Diagnostics. Warning: Upgrade recommended. 

Software: Running Diagnostincs. Warning: Retraining recommended. 

Overall Report: Diagnostics ongoing. Main systems appear to be functioning optimally. However, some changes detected in the Wetware and Software due to passage of time. May require further investigation. Recommendation: Start 'er slow, eh. Been in hibernation for a while, she'll need a bit of warm-up time. 

Action: Selection of Topic. 

Action: Software management- run program Music, Jazz.

Action: Idle/Sleep Mode. Engage. 

Power down. 

Friday, July 8, 2022

Tuning. Touching Keyboards. Checking the Dashboard. Trying Not To Cry on the Electronics.


Mic check. 

Audio Check. 

Heart Check. 

Maintenance Mode: Engage. 

Cue: Song dedicated to the Written Word. 

Selection: The One and Only Ray Charles. 

Power Down. 

Rest Mode: Engaged

Restart: To Be Determined...

A little birdie told me...

Follow MikocheniReport on Twitter