Its started out like many other viral trends. An unassuming question tweeted out by 18-year-old Keabetswe Jan on a typical Saturday evening in early January: ‘O jewa ke eng?’

Just like wildfire, the Southern Sothom phrase, which loosely translates to ‘what is eating you up?’ or ‘what is troubling you?’ began to spread. From South Africa to Nigeria, thousands of Twitter users began to reply to the tweet.

As is expected with social media trends, especially on Twitter, some users hopped on to post funny and witty remarks.

Unsurprisingly, some others capitalised on it to grow their follower count.

However, the trend took a rather remarkable twist when people started sharing deeply personal stories — stories that one would expect to hear only within the confines of a therapy room.

Typically, the stories looked something like this.

The wider the tweet spread, the more people opened up and shared. Before long, this trend took on a life of its own, with users owning and personalising it to raise awareness on different topics.

Six months, 12,000 retweets, and 26,000 replies later, ‘O jewa ke eng?’ was still trending. When it eventually seemed to be winding down, then came along ‘Sco pa tu mana,’ a gibberish word originated by the Ghanaian hiplife act, Patapaa Amisty.

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While slightly different in the sense that it is mostly posted with a picture, the ‘Sco pa tu mana’ trend had the same effect as the ‘O jewa ke eng?’ trend — it moved people to share their experiences on sensitive issues.

What started as a simple tweet had become more or less a movement, sparking conversation around mental health, child abuse, sexual harassment, rape, and a number of other topics that, as Africans, might have been considered taboo to speak about publicly.

It is a common belief that Africans do not share intimate details about their lives — especially with strangers, and so do not believe in therapy. But for various reasons, these Twitter trends have proved quite the contrary, as they have become a platform for self-therapy.

Twitter is a home away from home for many users who have, over time, formed connections with other users and become comfortable with the platform.

“If you hang out with your friends and family, you’re more likely to confide in them,” says Oyindamola Abbatty, a work psychologist and graduate research assistant at the University of Lagos. “Some people have been [on Twitter] for as long as ten years, they have developed relationships both offline and online.”

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In addition, unlike more curated platforms like Instagram, these Twitter trends have a certain spontaneity to them which makes it easier for users to express themselves without having to think too much about it.

“Twitter can be said to be more therapeutic than Instagram,” Oyindamola told me over Twitter DM. “You’re more likely to tweet every random thing that pops into your head even if no one retweets it. It just helps to let it off your chest.”

She adds, “many influencers on [Twitter] are actually introverts in real life. Being able to communicate without actual face-to-face interaction makes people bolder.”

What started as a simple tweet had become more or less a movement, sparking conversation around mental health, child abuse, sexual harassment, rape, and a number of other topics that, as Africans, might have been considered taboo to speak about publicly.

It is a common belief that Africans do not share intimate details about their lives — especially with strangers, and so do not believe in therapy. But for various reasons, these Twitter trends have proved quite the contrary, as they have become a platform for self-therapy.

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Twitter is a home away from home for many users who have, over time, formed connections with other users and become comfortable with the platform.

“If you hang out with your friends and family, you’re more likely to confide in them,” says Oyindamola Abbatty, a work psychologist and graduate research assistant at the University of Lagos. “Some people have been [on Twitter] for as long as ten years, they have developed relationships both offline and online.”

In addition, unlike more curated platforms like Instagram, these Twitter trends have a certain spontaneity to them which makes it easier for users to express themselves without having to think too much about it.

“Twitter can be said to be more therapeutic than Instagram,” Oyindamola told me over Twitter DM. “You’re more likely to tweet every random thing that pops into your head even if no one retweets it. It just helps to let it off your chest.”

She adds, “many influencers on [Twitter] are actually introverts in real life. Being able to communicate without actual face-to-face interaction makes people bolder.”

Source: https://techpoint.africa/2019/08/21/why-africas-most-popular-internet-trend-o-jewa-ke-eng-trend-has-refused-to-die/ .

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