Building connection one story at a time

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As shared in my brief introduction last week, I am the new Grocott’s engagement editor. Over the coming months, I will be working closely with the editor, our student journalists, freelance journalists, and community contributors to build a digital community around Grocott’s and Makhanda, primarily through our social media platforms.

When people think about social media, they may think of cute cat videos, rants, their information being harvested by advertisers, and collecting likes. They are not wrong, but that is not all social media is. It is also a space to establish a connection, a sense of belonging, and community.

Some of the research I’ve done over time has looked at how social media and the internet enable opportunities for people to create safe spaces to connect. I mostly looked at how the most marginalised use social media – where and when they can access the internet – to connect and create support networks.

What also emerged from my research is that people use social media to create and share knowledge about their lives that may not be seen in mainstream media. For instance, small towns and villages experience this across South Africa; their stories are often left out while those from Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Durban dominate.

Our stories matter as much as those from bigger cities with more media resources and social capital. Social media is one means of sharing our stories and bringing them into context with the rest of the country and other countries. This is not to say we will be bombarding the big news houses with our stories, although, let us be honest, we have got some good stories here. Just this week, our very own heist (at the Observatory Museum of all places). You can’t make this stuff up.

But what we are about, and what we hope to be doing, is connecting people. We want to build connections within the town and its people and nurture our collective sense of community. But we also want to help those who have left Makhanda maintain a connection to the community and keep them in touch with what’s happening to a place that was, and most likely still is, home to them.

In the coming weeks, you will see us sharing posts on Facebook and Instagram; we may even experiment with the story functionality on both platforms. As Rod wrote last week, we are learning as we go, and we may choose to try out something different on our Facebook and Instagram accounts. We would love to have you be a part of this. We strongly encourage you to share your thoughts with us; this could be through the comments, messages on the apps or sites, or via email. You can direct your emails to me at N.McLean@ru.ac.za.

At Grocott’s, we are not about collecting likes, and we won’t post or share stories simply for the sake of collecting as many of your likes as possible. But what we will be doing is sharing stories that matter to you and our community of Makhanda. Hopefully, these stories will enrich our lives, share different perspectives and lived experiences, and connect us.

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