Home Community Insights NETNOGRAPHY: What I Discovered After Observing RantHQ for 7 Days

NETNOGRAPHY: What I Discovered After Observing RantHQ for 7 Days

NETNOGRAPHY: What I Discovered After Observing RantHQ for 7 Days

I decided to study the Rant Headquarters Facebook group because of my interest in knowing some social networking driven emerging subcultures in Nigeria. This group, known as RantHQ, was founded on August 19, 2017 by Suzan Ade Coker. It has more than a million members. My analysis of the group reveals that socioeconomic and political issues, as well as Nigerian needs, are the driving forces behind various types of conversation. Between November 4th and 11th, 2022, I studied this group with the intention of learning what was going on in the group, what members were talking about, and becoming acquainted with their activities.

During my observation of the group, I paid close attention to the posts and how members interacted with them (posts). The group has several rules that govern posting and commenting on what other members have posted. A post must be approved by the founder and some members who have been given administrator status before it can be published. Aside from general posts using Meta’s (Facebook’s creator) “what’s on your mind” feature, the group also uses announcement and event features. In this report, I present my observations by examining the values, practices, signifiers, and how members created meaning in relation to the topics of conversation through specific symbols.

Key Values and Practices

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As previously stated, the group believes in discussing socioeconomic and political issues as well as member needs. However, in most cases, members discuss issues they encountered while interacting with non-members in physical settings (offline). This was deduced from posts and comments made by some members during my observation period. For example, I discovered that whenever a post was made by a member, they commented by referring to people they had met and had course of experiencing the post’s theme(s) from. According to my observations, members mostly talked about relationships, which include the lifestyles of people they have interacted with offline.

The majority of the time, the conversation centered on toxic marriages, families, and workplace challenges. “Be careful when they call you wife material. Some came not to buy material, but to cut it for a sample,” one of the posts warns.  Members were split in their reactions to the post. Some members, for example, reacted to it by focusing on the second statement, which explains how Nigerian men typically had premarital sex with ladies before marrying them. This type of conversation usually ends in personality disparagement as members discuss each other’s past experiences.

Based on the poor economic climate in the country, I found that members also used euphemism and oxymoron to describe the financial hardship people were going through in order to establish some level of self-fulfillment despite the hardship. “After all the hype, I thought I’d order some Shawarma to try it out. I was unable to eat it, as I had anticipated. I just couldn’t swallow it, so to speak. I threw it away in the trash as a result. It’s overrated, sorry!” reads one of the posts. Despite the fact that the speaker initially emphasized that the food had not been consumed, the fact that the food’s pack had been dropped into a trash proved otherwise (a picture of trash bin is attached with the post). I discovered that posts like this inspire readers to survive difficult economic times. Along with discussing the difficult economic climate, I discovered that group members organized physical events where the less fortunate were helped by being given food and household goods. To specifically improve the lives of its members and the nearby physical communities, the group also provides humanitarian services.

Signifiers and Meaning-Making

I observed how users used emojis as signifiers to establish symbolic meanings of the themes in their posts because meaning-making is “the process by which people construe, understand, or make sense of life events, relationships, and the self.” During the time I spent observing the group, I discovered 16 emojis (??, ?, ????, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?) and 6 associative symbols (?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?). I learned that these emojis serve as signifiers that help members pay attention to posts and comments. One of the relationship-related posts, for example, states that “insulting a woman after breakups ? and exposing her past in front of others shows that you have failed as a man.” The use of ? indicates that the member who posted it believes it is improper to expose a former partner’s past bad deeds.

Some of the emojis, also known as associative symbols, aided members in better understanding of posts and comments, particularly when members wanted to be sarcastic in communicating specific topics.  This is most common when discussing relationship topics such as failed marriages and marriage proposals. One member, for example, writes: “a relationship in which your partner does not get jealous, fight or quarrel you over things.” My sister runs ????. It’s a ruse. Thank you ????????. The use of the first emoji (????) which indicates running emphasized the need to leave the relationship, while the use of ???????? (indicates walking) after the appreciative statement reinforced the need to thank the member for giving the advice.

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