Finding my way in the cyber jungle

By Lubalethu Ndlovu

I started using ICT’s in 2012, when I was in Form Four. The first gadget I owned was a Nokia flip up phone that I loved so much. It was not easy navigating through the phone and learning to do things on my own because I had requested the mobile phone for months.

Lubalethu Ndlovu

I made a lot of mistakes as I used it. I could not save contact phone numbers and this frustrated me because I wanted to be seen as clever like the rest of my mates. I could not ask for help from my parents or brothers because I knew they would laugh at me for not knowing how to use the phone.

As time passed I began to understand the functions of the various keys. I began to tap into the ‘unknown’ world of social media, the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp which I found very fascinating. Going through other people’s posts was so much fun but I wanted to be a content creator as well, I wanted other people to read and like my posts so that I would feel relevant online.

Thus, the next challenge in the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) came. I started to plagiarize famous people’s post but editing the content into my own context so that people could not see I was not being original.

I spent so much time wanting to excite people online I forgot to live my own life. Social media became part of me. I would get very depressed and unsettled when I did not have data to go online. This led me to have bad habits of squandering change when I was sent to the shops to buy something. It started with some few coins from the change after buying some items my parents had send me to buy. Then I moved up to presenting inflated receipts to my parents. This helped me to get more money from my parents. All the money was used on buying mobile data for my phone.

This went on for months before my mother figured out what was happening. She confiscated the phone and I was sad for many days. I threw tantrums around the house but my mum did not budge. I was off social media for a long time. According to my parents, this was meant to help me to gather myself and develop self-respect. I was practically grounded from social media.

The next time I had a phone, I had left high school. I was grown up and knew that I could not fold to all the pressure I faced online. I also understood that it was okay not to have anything to say online but listen to what other people say. I learnt to navigate social media way better than I did when I was a teenager. However, my screen time online is still very high. I spent hours being unproductive just following trends and watching people harass each other online.

I speak up here and there on issues that I feel are pertinent and may help to make the world a better place for women and girls. I focus more on fighting cyber bullying and Gender Based Violence.

The purpose of World Telecommunication and Information Society Day (WTISD) is to help raise awareness of the possibilities that the use of the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICT) can bring to societies and economies, as well as of ways to bridge the digital divide.

The United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres said “Digital technologies sustain life, work, health and learning for billions of people. Yet 3.7 billion people — nearly half the world’s population — remain unconnected to the Internet; and of these, the majority are women.”

This story is part of efforts by the Creative Centre for Communication and Development to strengthen women and girls’ capacity in the use of digital technologies particularly by amplifying their voices and providing platforms for collaborative content production and sharing.

Creative Centre for Communication and Development, Zimbabwe