Something amazing happened this weekend. A 26-year-old woman bought herself a house that cost almost R4 million and then shared the news on social media. Some were elated for her, but others weren’t, and the new homeowner, actress Boity Thulo, found herself on the receiving end of ridicule, suspicion and scorn.
Some have argued that the negative feedback was a result of jealousy, while others questioned why she felt the need to post about the purchase in the first place.
Professor Hlonipha Mokoena, Associate Professor at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research, says: “There haven’t been clearly defined rules about what you can and cannot post on social media, so there are a lot of issues about what people post on social media.
“However, when people follow others on Instagram, you need to know that not everyone is following out of the goodness of their heart,” warns Prof Mokoena.
“In the German language they call it Shadenfraude, when people are following you to watch you fail. It is a very disturbing thing; it seems like people are waiting to enjoy your fall,” she explains.
People use social media for various reasons, and researchers from Cornell University have found that a social media presence can have a positive effect on the psyche. The good feeling we get from self-presentation is so strong that viewing your own Facebook profile has been shown to increase your self-esteem.
Other research shows that the brain is hard-wired to share information, and can make us feel good about ourselves.
A research paper titled Creating Buzz: The Neural Correlates of Effective Message Propagation found that the thought of sharing information activates our brain’s reward centres, so it feels good to share amazing news and the desire to do so is natural.
But sharing news can result in a backlash, as Boity found out. Many people were quick to question how an actress could afford such a home.
In a previous interview with DESTINY on black wealth, Professor Deborah Posel from the University of Cape Town’s Institute for Humanities in Africa, said black wealth has always been politicised.
“There is an element of racist anxiety in some of the critiques of black consumerism, in my view. But I also think we are witnessing the beginnings of social debate and argument within black communities about materialism and wealth in a context of abiding inequality and poverty,” she said.
Many point out that white wealthy people are not as ostentatious and don’t usually show off their assets online for all to see. Social media means that even strangers from other countries can weigh in and criticise your choices, says Prof Mokoena.
‘Before, if you were wealthy people would know by seeing your Lamborghini, but they would have to be quite close to you. Maybe race has something to do with it because black people often joke that white people don’t show off their wealth. Maybe there is a reason,” she says.
Addressing the need for black people to celebrate each other’s achievements, DJ Black Coffee said on Instagram that it’s time to put an end to black-on-black hate and jealousy.