This is an ongoing and new series devoted to the South African Secular Society (SASS) and South African secularism. The Past President, Jani Schoeman, and the Current President, Rick Raubenheimer, and the current Vice-President, Wynand Meijer, will be taking part in this series to illuminate these facets of South Africa culture to us. Rick and Wynand join us.
Here we talk about secular media.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Wynand, you are the webmaster. What do you do there? What are some developments in progress for SASS, online?
Wynand Meijer: We recently revamped the website from scratch. The site was already a few years old and was due for a revamp, which we then took on. After the revamp, we saw a lot of benefits in all the efforts that we’ve put into it.
We have looked at a lot of the industry standards, and are more in line with industry standards now, which also assists us with our workflow, in how we can onboard new users, as well as making use of payment platforms.
Jacobsen: What is the activity of the users? What are some social media platforms that you’re currently using?
Meijer: The social media platforms are mainly the major players, like Facebook, as well as Twitter, where a lot of our content goes out to.
Jacobsen: What is the activity of the members, by what you mean, “online”?
Meijer: We generally post content related to actual events. The content that we posted, we tried to source local content, and have people question or participate in activities that might be more locally based, hence South African Secular Society.
Major issues, or major events, such as the latest burning of the Our Lady in Notre Dame, that also does get attention. We are actually very surprised at how mature most of our members look at issues such as these. Most of the members, we can say, do try to bring through a real secular view on things, and not just angry atheists trying to vent out on religion.
Jacobsen: What other flashpoint news items have been in the cycle recently aside from Notre Dame?
Meijer: Local news, a few weeks back, we had somebody that was resurrected from the dead…
Jacobsen: …Purportedly [Laughing].
Meijer: [Laughing] Yes, which piqued a lot of interest. Something that also piques a lot of interest – that we’ve found – is book recommendations. What is a good book to read? People are quite interactive on those topics, as well.
Another topic that’s also very prevalent is education or children. If any of these two topics are touched upon, you can see a spike in the responses that people do give and how they would interact relating to those issues.
Jacobsen: What do you think is the reason for the increased activity or interest in books and in the education of the young?
Meijer: I think people still love reading a lot, but really a lot. Having the opportunity to give them more info, more insightful books, is something that really piques their interest. They would like to gain more information. It’s a nice topic to discuss around the table or just discussing with yourself at the end of the day.
When it comes to children, specifically, I think, the education of our youth is extremely important for that reason. People take an interest in that, in trying to see and understand how we can better educate our youth.
Rick Raubenheimer: The social media outreach is largely done broadcasting on Facebook. We get quite a bit of engagement on our Facebook page from articles. Christopher, whose job that is, generally posts an article every two days, or sometimes every day. We get quite a bit of engagement in that area.
What else can I say? We had a blog at one stage, which we were posting to regularly, but that fell into abeyance during the latter half of last year. Possibly that is something to revise when we find enough time to do it.
Jacobsen: If you were to plug any aspect of updates to the website, or expansion of social media, what would they be in 2019/2020?
Meijer: I think an awareness campaign of any running projects that we have, would be beneficial for us to market on the site, and get more engagement from our members, as well as potential members, and the public in general.
Raubenheimer: My thought has been to start an email newsletter, preferably monthly, in which we tell people what Meetups we have coming up, and any new articles on the website. However, it seems to be difficult for many of the centres to schedule Meetups as much as a month in advance. That one’s not happening yet, and we would need somebody to put the newsletter together.
Meijer: Currently, how we do a lot of these Meetups, is mainly about two weeks in advance. Raubenheimer wishes it to be a month. To assist in that, we generally post these details on the electronic channels that we do have, such as our Facebook, our Meetup, as well as our Telegram channels.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Wynand and Rick.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. He authored/co-authored some e-books, free or low-cost. If you want to contact Scott: Scott.D.Jacobsen@Gmail.com.
Do not forget to look into our associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, and Centre for Inquiry Canada.
Other Resources: Recovering From Religion.