What a proverbial rollercoaster the 21st century has been.
The post-globalisation era has revolutionised human relations, trade, lifestyles, commerce and geopolitics in more ways than we could have imagined post-World War 2.
For some, the Fourth Industrial Revolution did not announce its arrival. It landed on us like a meteor, and in the process opened and closed information craters and shattered pretences.
Any which way you choose to look at it, every aspect of life has been disrupted. Look no further than the ubiquity of mobile money. At the pension pay points, grannies are dialling *120*120# to buy airtime. At ATMs, well-heeled lads jockey alongside blue-collar workers, migrant workers and sugar babies to withdraw e-wallets.
The age of artificial intelligence with super robots that enable deep learning is opening vistas of knowledge and commerce, at least for those with the resources and social capital to make it work for them. For the rest of us, we are just a market under the surveillance of the algorithm.
At the same time, millions are being numbed and dumbed down in the addictive metaverse of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and others. There is a province for everyone under the sun in the metaverse.
When people wanted to squabble and expose their idiocy to the outside world, Twitter emerged to quench the thirst for fame by stridently taking up one or another cause célèbre.
In this province, everyone lays claim to the Premier’s chair and chain. All manner of notoriety is flourishing, and increasingly dastardly acts are being performed in the rush for likes and retweets.
Despite the knowledge that nearly everyone is unhinged on this platform, it has become a playing ground for sanctimonious politicians to expand their spheres of influence. No self-respecting politician is nowadays without a social media what what hired to upload pictures and videos, tweet random lengthy speech extracts and generally maintain the said politician’s visibility.
They compete with OnlyFans models and their patrons and various other forms of solicitation. The logic is — the more followers you get, retweets and likes, the wider the egos. Would you have imagined that Twitter is now the porn hub? No wonder the guy from Pretoria has bought it and turned it into his ranch.
When people wanted to slay and openly showcase their embellished lives, the province of Instagram was there to offer the freedom of the city — no Visa is required. Extravagant fashion brands, private jets, bling, tables groaning with curated food and expensive alcohol are the order of the day.
Instagram is the domain of the influencer who represents basically nothingness in exchange for likes. These influencers are oblivious to the realities of life. Everyone is rich, snatched, and on the make.
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Everyone has been Face-Tuned and Photoshopped to within an inch of their life. There is no cellulite, acne or shubabas here. Everyone is bleached or fair-skinned. Add botox to the mix and everyone has come to look similar if not identical.
Can someone explain the fad of photos in the toilet? Perhaps it’s for good lighting. How can self-respecting people turn themselves into mascots like this — even well-known politicians? Mascots of not-so-easy-on-the-eye global brands that accentuate our disfigured selves, supersized by all manner of genetically modified edibles.
For those who dreamt of being on the stage or screen but were turned away by casting agencies and production companies, TikTok is the new public square, unleashing escapades of note. Unfiltered home videos are wildly circulated. Rural slay queens in decrepit rondavels, omageza (taxi drivers), nyaope boys and even truck drivers have found instant fame. A certain maskandi musician warned in a recent hit: “be careful of your wife twerking on TikTok”. Urban Instagram slay queens have found their match in these amateurs slaying in their natural habitat both with and without filters.
Personally, I’m a fan of Zulu TikTok. It was imposed on me by the algorithm. My first two searches when I joined it were about Zulu traditional dancers to show my Chinese friends. I kid you not, even the leader of the largest faction of the Shembe Church, Unyazi LweZulu, is on TikTok. He was reprimanding his flock there the other day. The algorithm caught on after my searches and decided to push similar videos each time I log on.
Facebook is the place for anyone with a story to tell but whose shoddy work has been rejected by publishers and newspapers. Now anyone with data and a device can publish their screeds. According to the woke ones and Gen Zs on Twitter and Snapchat, Facebook is for old people, the baby boomers and those who made South Africa ungovernable in the 80s.
Access is unfettered to conspiracy theories and alternative facts. Like Instagram, Facebook can be a hazardous pursuit for impressionable young girls who can fall prey to philanderers masquerading as chivalrous men. They are ready to strike, with dire consequences. They can’t stand their peers on Tinder.
For those who want to keep their lascivious pursuits on the down low, Tinder comes to the rescue. All manner of scammer is resident in this province: pretending to be bitcoin tycoons who fly in private jets, eat caviar and wear Swiss timepieces. Women desperate for validation, to settle down or to meet Mr Right are easy pickings for these Musa Mseleku-type characters. Losing out on love could be the last of your worries if you’re chewed up and spat out on Tinder, in many cases it could be your savings too.
Just as we were trying to make sense of these quantum leaps in the supercomputing world and their implications, along came ChatGPT to open the doors to plagiarists and rattle intellectual rigour. ChatGPT is technological manna from heaven for copycats. The beer truck has overturned in broad daylight.
There is no need to think anymore, let alone think twice about violating copyright and intellectual property rules. Everything you need is now at your fingertips. Need to produce a paper on climate change? Simply type keywords into the search engine and within 16 seconds you are ready to submit a machine-written essay. Those plagiarists from the Eastern Cape can now improve their productivity with this platform. It writes great speeches too.
Tired of rural life and hoping to get jobs in Durban, we built shacks for rental. Now everyone lives with us eNanda, with their ruralitarian tendencies that are difficult to cleanse. My hood is a province of the metaverse, where human decency has met the incinerator.
And so is it with these metaverse provinces. Everyone has a place in the sun. It’s a world of its own. We might as well tag along. Even morons have gone viral. DM