Does the internet have the potential to unite people? Or does it merely alienate and isolate its users? It’s a debate that continues to rage on as internet usage increases and more people become netizens. A social media prank that has captured the interest of South Africans proves that the former is possible.

It began when Adele released Hello, the lead single to her upcoming studio album. The song follows in the vein of her previous releases, it’s a tearful, heartfelt ballad that details the efforts of a woman trying to reconnect with a lost love over the phone. The song has reached the number one position on the charts of several countries (including our own) and its music video has achieved a record-breaking number of views.

Hello has also resulted in one other unexpected accolade for the British singer-songwriter. The song’s confessional lyrics have inspired a social media prank or game called the “#HelloChallenge”. Here social media users text or whatsapp their exes, friends and family using the lyrics of the song. The results are then posted on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Adele’s popularity and the engaging nature of the prank have helped it become a local trending topic on Twitter this week.

It’s easy to write off the #HelloChallenge as a light-hearted bit of fun or part of the song’s marketing campaign. Sure, it’s fun to read and groan at the crazier results. And, yes, Adele’s song has benefited from the exposure it’s received.

But evidence on social media indicates that the challenge has real,, emotional impacts on the lives of its participants. Conversations outside the prank are sparked. Old friendships are rekindled. For others, past wounds are allowed closure.

The challenge has also given South Africans an opportunity to share in a joke. We continue to be divided by race, politics, gender, sexuality and religion. The #HelloChallenge could help to momentarily transcend these issues through the universal language of laughter.

The #HelloChallenge may very well end up being the flavour of the week but I hope the prank’s longevity lasts and it continues to resonate with people. We are fast approaching the festive season, a time where many people tend to feel lonely. A “Hello from the other side” from an old friend would certainly make a difference. Don’t you think?



Rasvanth Chunylall

Rasvanth Chunylall is a media and cultural studies master's student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He currently works as a research assistant with the KZN...

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