2015: The year of the fall

This year's viral social media sensations were all about falling.

Read time 4min 50sec

It all started with Bob Mugabe.

After addressing his supporters, the Zimbabwean president tripped at the bottom of a flight of stairs while leaving Harare Airport. It was the fall that would launch a thousand memes.

Accompanied by the hashtag #MugabeFalls, images of the 90-year-old's footwork faux pas went viral. Just a handful of these saw Mugabe riding a broomstick, surfing, running away from wild animals and busting a move on the dance floor.

Bob's little stumble was just one of many falls that got us talking, tweeting and tapping the share button in 2015.

Plummeting from their pedestals

Locally, the year of the fall began in March when students at UCT rallied together to have a statue commemorating British coloniser Cecil John Rhodes removed from the university's campus.

Not only was the protest movement - dubbed #RhodesMustFall - looking to have the statue taken down but they were also keen to highlight issues such as transformation, imperialism and inequality within SA's higher education institutions.

And Rhodes did fall. About a month after the furore began, a UCT council voted to have it relocated.

Several months later, students across the country joined forces once again; this time to protest against drastic increases in university fees. The #FeesMustFall movement brought learning to a standstill and saw students marching to Parliament and the Union Buildings.

Again, their voices were heard and government announced a 0% increase in student fees for the 2016 academic year.

But old Rhodes wasn't the only one who fell from grace this year. In June, civil rights activist Rachel Dolezal was in the news after it emerged that in her many years working to empower black communities across America, she had in fact been lying about her race. Yip, she'd been pretending to be black, when actually she was white. Awkward.

Around the middle of the year, sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby - which had been whispered about for years - made headlines when close to 40 women officially came forward and accused the US stand-up comedian and actor of assault.

In a less scandalous, albeit decidedly dangerous, incident, professional surfer Mick Fanning's fall from his surfboard during the World Surf League Championship Tour in Jeffreys Bay got everyone talking. The reason being that the Aussie was pretty much yanked off his board during a rather close encounter with a shark. Luckily, he escaped unharmed.

A city falls to its knees

2015 was a tough year for Paris. In January, three gunmen entered the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo; killing 10 journalists and two policemen. And as the year drew to a close, the French capital was attacked yet again. This time, the city fell victim to a series of coordinated acts of violence.

The mass shootings and suicide bombings at various locations across Paris left 130 people dead and roughly 368 people injured.

As is expected, there were more than a few WTF moments in 2015 that caused quite a bit of online hysteria.

In the wake of the attacks, Parisians and global citizens turned to social media to show their support for those who were affected by the violence. Facebook allowed users to "check in" as safe following the attacks. This was the first time the feature was utilised for a situation other than a natural disaster; a move that was met with a mixed response.

Similarly, Twitter users living in Paris employed the hashtag #PorteOuverte (meaning open doors) as a means to offer refuge to those in need.

Society's stumbling sanity

As is expected, there were more than a few WTF moments in 2015 that caused quite a bit of online hysteria. In February, the cause of this hysteria was a dress. But not just any dress - a dress that appeared gold and white to some and black and blue to others. I believe the whole thing has something to do with our genes and resultant differing retinas but frankly, I'm glad we've stopped debating it.

If it was possible for political figures to fall any further in our esteem, it happened this year. Our ever-dwindling faith in the fact that politicians have our best interests at heart took a further dive on the night of the 2015 state of the nation address.

Local journalists were hamstrung during president Jacob Zuma's speech when cellphone reception in Parliament was jammed, preventing them from filing their stories.

Come June, global politics was greeted with a new player when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president of the United States. Yes, the same guy who wants to build a wall to keep Mexicans out of the US and once championed global warming because some cities are just too darn cold is now vying for a seat in the oval office. Oy vey.

From fashion to fakes, politics to protests - 2015 has certainly seen a number of things taking a tumble. Perhaps 2016 will be the year we pick things back up?

* A former ITWeb journalist, Joanne Carew now resides in the Mother City, where she is admiring the mountain and completing her Masters studies at UCT.

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