The inside story: Friends, fame and downsides

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There is usually a crop of strange people among my friends. These are the ones who think and feel that we’re not friends enough because I don’t write about them on this blog. That is how they want me to prove that our friendship is solid; that I should feature them once in a while, and create an air of importance around them. It is the same thing that happens when you’re a journalist writing for a local daily; your friends want you to write a breath-taking story about them. Mostly, they feel that the world needs to know them, that they exist and that they are important because ‘watu ya magazeti’ have written about them. They just want to validate their existence.

In Kenya, there is a notion created that if you appear on a certain blog or newspaper then you must be a big deal, like the real deal. Someone appearing on a feature can be a fad that spins things around to make someone important and famous at the same time. As I have previously mentioned, attention is like a drug, and everyone is craving for it. We all want to be noticed by our friends, our enemies and the world at large. The world is a stage, and we are the actors and audience at the same time. Everyone is on stage, only the one who has the strongest voice gets the attention from the audience.

At least, in each of us is a burning desire to be known beyond our little circles of influence. You want a staggering following on social media.  And nowadays, the more the followers one has the more the notion that they are rich it creates among members that follow that person’s life. They are deemed to have made it, and they seem to think and act as if they have, which is the wrong move. But if you can fake it till you make it, the better. It can be a smoke coming from a ciggie but people will think that it is a huge smoke coming from a brimming fire.

And we will, at times, go to insane lengths to get noticed. This attention seeking craze can be traced in people who feel less appreciated in society or people who feel they don’t belong, mostly lonely people who think the world has abandoned them. So they are devising ways to get the world to approve their presence and notice them as fellow human beings.

It can also happen amongst the poor who happen to interact with a circle of people who are well off or who generally don’t give a shit about people that much.  We all suffer from attention deficit, but for some this deficit breaks the banks of both the low and high threshold making them go mad.  Literally mad. Their cravings for attention abound and lead them into doing the unimaginable.  These are the people who steal identities, the ones who create fake pages of celebrities, these are people who create pseudo accounts to send very unworthy points across, and these are the ones who invent dark shenanigans like selling nudity in the name of fashion and the likes.

The desperation for getting people to attend to you can make one lose their minds. People become stressed, suicidal and angry when they feel the world has shunned them. They feel all alone and segregated from the rest of the populace who happen to be leading happy, flashy lives, mostly on social media.

In the current times, social media is a huge platform. Someone who has made a name of it is a force to reckon with. And a number of young people have made it online. The trend is that every youngster ought to be on social media- be it Facebook, The Gram, Twitter and many others antiquated folks like me don’t know about. So when someone who is young is a small fish on social media, they feel left out as they see others have their shit put together. Jealousy grabs them by the balls.

Well, this is not the point. I was talking about my friends, including my girlfriend who thinks that we’re not friends enough because I don’t write about them on social media or on this blog. My girlfriend thinks that I don’t want the world to know she exists, like I am hiding her and keeping her a secret. There is a danger when a woman starts thinking of a man that way.  It makes the man look guilty when he is not. In short, it implies that the man is a cheater- otherwise; he could not make her a secret. You see how good intentions can be spun around to be a smoking gun on your very face?

In any journalism class, there is a common phrase that goes “a dog biting a man is not a story, but a man biting a dog is the story.” So writers (real ones) everywhere have this “man bites a dog” is the story thing in their head, it never leaves because when it does the editor is going to return the story back and ask if you went to a journalism class or if you’re sure you are in the right field. That simple phrase rules our world. We deal with stories on the edge, unusual happenings that are unexpected- be it a medical invention, a woman delivering in the middle of a super busy highway and causing a heavy bottleneck,  an elephant eating a lion or even a man giving birth to a baby.

These unusual occurrences are the things that make stories, things that people don’t hear of or see on a daily basis. A man riding a bus to work is common, but a man arriving at work on an ass is extraordinarily worth a giggle. This is to say that until something unusual happens in your life, a writer is not going to leave their sleep just to come and write about your haircut of beautiful body- unless you’re part of a story the writer wants to write.

I was told once by my mentor that if you want attention you have to do things that sane people can only do in their dreams. You have to be different, an outlier. It is the people who make a difference that get to be highlighted in the mags and papers and popular blogs. The quickest way to attain this status is to find a unique social problem and hatching a unique solution to it. For example, there are many poor, disabled people choking the streets begging for help. What can you do to help these people?

If I were you I’d go into a restaurant and buy lunch with the money that I was spend on lunch, go and share the food with one of them, banter and laugh. You’ll have made a very huge difference to that person. That person will never forget you, he/she will bless you and you’ll become friends. One real physical friend is equal to thousands of followers on IG who can’t roll out of bed at 3am to take you to hospital when you’re sick.  Are you not on social media to look for people who you can impress? Well and good, what if you got real friends who you don’t have to impress? Ones who can talk to you, share laughter or even hang out with you? Someone walking by might even get a picture of you while treating that person and make you famous.

But since I am not you, you will probably think of a way to get all of them off the streets. When it comes to HOW, you then get stuck. Change starts small with what you have. That is real change, making the immediate environment better. Over time your muscles will grow, people will lend helping hands and you’ll become something bigger. You’ll have become famous for the right reasons.

Sadly, we want fame for the wrong reasons. Have you ever wondered what you’ll do with fame once you have it? Fame is also an attention seeking son of a bitch. It will need all your time, and doing mind blowing things. People don’t just follow people; they follow them for what they do.  Once that is gone or stops, people stop following. People follow Eric Omondi because of his comedy, Beyonce because of her singing, Njuguna because of his silly acts and so on. So if by any chance you become famous without something to show for it, that fame dies with the night.

Back to my friends, it is not that I don’t want to write about you. Sometimes I really want to but I’ll not write good things about you. Using my man bites a dog line; stories often tend to lean on darkness than light. You don’t want me to write about you stealing Mama Boi’s eggs, or saying that you’re the dude who stands over the balcony and pisses over to the neighbours or that you steal women undergarments because really, people would find that weird but they’ll want to read to know what kind of person you are.  But if I say you’re beautiful, that you are an amazing cook, or that you’ve great sense of fashion, it will be totally flat and boring to even the writer, leave alone the reader.

So, there is always a temptation to write things about you, many things in fact. But when I think of those things, most of them are embarrassing or do not amount to enough words that can weave a story. Trust me, even me there is a time I feel like calling my fellow writers and asking them to write something about me. Everyone wants their ego massaged a bit with a little praise. There are many moments that I feel to be read by the whole world. It is a dream that many of us who have not made it yet happen to rollick in.

In the past I’ve gone to lengths to achieve that status. It didn’t work out unfortunately. I’ve run multiple blogs and even tried to feature myself there tediously without getting the desired results. I’ve bribed bloggers in the same name but my goal didn’t fruit. When I finally discovered that fame takes time to build, I tucked my tail between the legs and set to create that dream step by step. It might take forever, but one day, when the right moment strikes, no one will grab it from me. It will be my moment; one that I built for a long period of perseverance, and from the sweat of the readers who stood by my side. That moment will be mine, but without the supporting pillars it will be smoke that will ebb once the wind blows. It will be our moment, you and I.

By now I have talked of two reasons why I don’t write about my close friends: one, I focus on the story, not the relationship, two, there isn’t enough meat for me to create a compelling story that can influence others.

The third reason is the most important. Early last year while in college, a writer wrote a very dirty story about me that was aimed to defame me. He/she posted it on a platform that has followers from all over Kenya and closely followed by my friends. It was a defaming material that spread quickly like fire in a matter of seconds. It is a friend of mine, Frank Muthui, who reached me out informing me of what was actually trending on that site. It was utter shock, something I have never imagined happening to me.

In the post, I had been accused of rape, drunkenness and other heinous acts. A picture of innocent I glared at me. Fear attacked me. I’ve never drank in my life, I’ve never raped anyone or tried to. So it was completely surprising that someone could accuse me of such doings when I had no idea. Of course, I thought of tracking the asshole down and slitting his/her throat open. The post was pulled down and the writer never traced. I didn’t go to that length because I knew I’d kill the person if I knew them.

I have enjoyed my moments of fame, most of them in college where my name was the school anthem. I made love with it for three years. It taught me so many things and made me lose my mind at times. At some point, it left me dry and miserable. It is a lonely world with full of perceptions and a lot of smoke. People think you’ve already made it, that you know everything, that you have enough money, that you’re always happy, that you know every politician, that you can pull in huge favours, that you are ever confident, that you’re smart, etc.

It is a dark hole, only you who knows how deep the darkness goes. The rest see a mountain of hope. You go your way to fulfill other people’s fantasies, and you get hurt always during the process. You have to force smiles, greet and hug everyone, be present in every meeting, talk in every meeting and even advise when people can’t agree on things.

I made a discovery that being myself was the key ingredient to survival in this brutal world. But even of importance was the lesson of differentiating my public life from my personal life.  This is important because once you understand that Mzangila is a job, when you go home, you hang Mzangila’s gun and become Justine.

Therefore, I have endevoured to keep my personal life private. When you are a person of interest, people want to dig into your life. Grapevine is the oil of idlers, who happen to be many in the social media sphere. They want to know who you’re dating, where you hang out, what you wear, what you eat, where you stay, where you shop, your friends, your family, and all that. They want to anaylse every detail of your life.

And online users can make your life miserable when they know everything about you and they have evidence. They can turn your life a hell, flip it from side to side and even burn you. So this is the reason I don’t like appearing everywhere people want me to, or even posting pictures of me everywhere.

It is the same reasons why I don’t write about my friends or family. To me, these are private and should remain out of limelight. I truly care about them. It is the biggest reason why I don’t write about you, friends. So don’t be mad, it is for our safety. If you get in the limelight, let it not be me doing it unless I have to. You getting out there means me getting out there. Our friendship is more than social media. Let us not allow a small desire destroy what we have. We’ve come from far, and this blog wasn’t around when we met or when our friendship started.

To long lasting friendship! Cheers!


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Your ride or die friend,

Mzangila Snr

(The Supreme Hunter in Captivity)

Where shall we go, we who wander in this wastelands in search of better selves?

Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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