Our close-knitted conservative society is undoubtedly transforming under the pressure of modernity. It may be a case of inevitable cultural dynamism, but it’s apparent that social networks are echoing this shift. Although we prefer to believe otherwise, the idealism that portrays Botswana as immune to social controversy is stretching beyond its mark. Whether it is Berry Heart being sexually ‘liberated’, or infamous sex tapes, celebrity scandals, let alone people posting about deaths before the family is informed, more and more Batswana are wondering if our moral stance is being compromised by us ‘going digital’.
At first glance, social networks are a great platform for all kinds of expression; people’s perspectives are enhanced, social butterflies thrive through them and introverts don’t feel too socially awkward anymore to air their thoughts. It’s opinion galore, from small talk to cut throat commentary. With the mirage that these mediums provide, some people express their views with diligence (conscious of their reputation) while others tread on what is considered culturally and morally bankrupt and downright unacceptable. So, where do we draw the morality boundary amidst our digitized era, and who should be entitled to draw it for us?
Recently, the report of the death of local filmmaker Billy Kokorwe resulted in staggering comments of which some felt were celebratory of his demise. Social Media was abuzz with many opinions that labeled him a sex pervert and these comments had many questioning if it was right to divulge such information on a post about this death. “Truth must be said,” stated a few.
In their past report, Botswana statistics revealed a 132 increase in internet subscriptions. Batswana are quite attuned with the technological sphere, and this may be what is shifting our outlook on ‘acceptable’ norms.
I explored this issue on the streets of Gaborone.
“People who are on social media know it comes with a dark side of obscenity and carelessness. If you are sensitive towards such things, why subject yourself to them in the first place? Social media is not the place to play the morality judge because it’s a free speech platform,” argued law student Tshepang.
“Yes, culture changes, our norms change, but must we forget we have a culture of respect towards each other? No, we must still be cultured, even in times of technology,” said 40 year old vendor Maria.
“Social Media is not to blame, it is people who decide to be insensitive and they even justify it through free speech. It should be condemned,” said Tlamelo.
“Our world, in my view, has no absolute and irreducible fixed moral values that guide our action; there is no science to morality, only an ongoing and endlessly vibrant series of ideas, personal virtues and values, and competing convictions,” stated blogger Branden Christen on his piece ‘I love freedom of expression, so I hate social media.’
In essence, it is unclear how we would culturally regulate opinions to fit the mold of morality as we know it. Views are relative, and one’s opinion or action does not necessarily represent the whole, but we must always be considerate, as a nation, of what harm our words can cause others and even ourselves.