Pretoria - Spreading like wildfire, the death of Oscar Pistorius’s girlfriend went viral on social media all over the world on Thursday.
The story broke on Twitter at about 8.30am and flooded Pistorius and Steenkamp’s Facebook pages soon after. For the rest of the day, and evening, Oscar Pistorius was the top trend, with Reeva Steenkamp also trending.
Posts on the various social media platforms indicated the public had different perceptions and mixed feelings about the incident.
The public used Pistorius’s Facebook page as a medium to send him personal messages - some offering condolences and others accusatory and openly bad-mouthing him.
One of his nine Facebook fan pages has more than 133 000 fans and all of the pages have been abuzz with comment and critique. Just some of the comments included:
- Tyler Tyzz Den Heyer: I think it’s punishment enough that he has to live with the fact that he killed his own girlfriend. I refuse to believe that he did this on purpose. Innocent until proven guilty.
- Gareth Stuart Jones: If he is found guilty of murdering his girlfriend he should get life in jail.
- Sonia Soso Neku: People are good at judging, you don’t even know what happened there only Oscar n his GF… don’t jump to conclusions. R.I.P Reeva.
Professor Pippa Green, head of the University of Pretoria’s journalism department, said she was amazed at the power of social media. “I read about it at 8.30am on Twitter and when I went to teach a class an hour later, all the students knew about it from Twitter and they all had opinions,” she said.
She said it struck her how fast the news spread. “Everyone knew very quickly and that is the advantage of social media. The disadvantage is that everyone offers their opinions without necessarily checking the facts first,” Green said.
“With this incident, we saw the best and worst of social media.”
Pistorius and Steenkamp are no strangers to social media either.
Steenkamp used her Instagram site, an online space for photo sharing, to post pictures of herself, family and friends, jewellery, and inspiring quotes.
Her last entry four days ago showed a cartoon female face being hit by a hand. It was accompanied by: “I woke up in a happy safe home this morning. Not everyone did. Speak out against the rape of individuals in SA. RIP Anene Booysen.”
In a post on the same site she shared a poster detailing the joys of finding love.
The poster read: “It’s beautiful when you find someone who is in love with your mind. Someone who wants to undress your conscience and make love to your thoughts. Someone who wants to watch you slowly take down all the walls you’ve built up around your mind and let them inside.”
There was also a picture of Oscar taken in a car.
Her last tweet on Wednesday was “I’m there like a bear!!! Yayyyy!!!! X” in response to an invite for free cupcakes by SantonMini.
Posts on Steenkamp’s Facebook page offered “rest in peace” messages. The first post was at 9am. Others read:
- Sizwe Cee: Rest in peace beautiful.
- Dorianne Huygen: Rest in Peace beautiful angel!
- Jo-Anne Danielle Germis-huizen: Was so nice to have met you, you were such a kind and lovely person. My thoughts are with your family. Rest in the arms of the angels. xx
Condolences and opinions were also posted on Twitter to the family and friends of Steenkamp and Pistorius.
Twitter feeds urged people not to make assumptions as to what had happened and to give Pistorius a fair chance to present his case.
Many inappropriate jokes made in bad taste could also be found under the trending #Oscar.
Pistorius’s most recent tweet, accompanied by a photo, said: @oscarpistorius: In runup to the launch of my foundation in July I will give at least 10 kids mobility!
He also re-tweeted M-Net Movies’ tweet about “Oscar Month”.
M-Net has since announced it will be removing the adverts promoting Pistorius and Oscar month.
Former 100m world record-holder Asafa Powell tweeted about Steenkamp’s death. “Sad news about @oscarpistorius & fatal shooting of his girlfriend he’s a true inspiration & amazing athlete. A real tragedy for all.”
A Facebook page, called R.I.P. Reeva Steenkamp, set up on Thursdayhad more than 11 000 followers on Thursday night.