I created my first account online back in 2009. Could be recent or ancient – depending on when you were born or got exposed to the internet. It was a Facebook account with four friends – my family members who were on Facebook. Since then, I’ve moved on to create many others – even forgetting some. From Twitter through LinkedIn to this blog. Currently, I have over 10 accounts online.
Back in 2009, I knew nothing to do with Social Media, but today I literally feed on Social Media. Over time, I’ve learnt that there’s a lot that can happen with the click of a button. With one tweet, you can either lose or get a job. At the click of a button to update a Facebook status, you can be sued for incitement or be used as a witness in a PEV case. Social Media has become a force to reckon with in Kenya.
Show me a company or Corporate Entity without a twitter handle and I’ll show you one that is on the verge of collapse. Were it not for its power, the president could not have deleted a photo he posted officiating the swearing-in of the new NYS boss! If the social media was powerless, the Namibian and Botswana governments could not have ‘apologized’ for their statements on Kenya! I can go on and on and on to show how powerful Social Media is in the Kenyan context.
However, there are some instances when the Kenyan Social Media players – well, are they? – have exhibited their sense of reckless use of power. Synonymous with the African leaders who abuse power at the slightest opportunity – and this is not a cliché – Kenyan Social Media users have abused the power they have over cheap Internet enabled phones and hustled internet bundles to start twitter wars alias ‘tweefs’, fuel hatred , promote tribalism and incite each other.
The Saturday Nation of 21st June 2014 carried an incisive opinion article by one Peter Mwaura on the topic of ‘whether or not images of death should get published in the dailies.’ In his opening paragraph, Mr Mwaura quips”would you like a picture of your death published on the front page of the Nation for all to see?” Most likely, everybody will answer this with an emphatic ‘No!’ However, the same person will be the first to share photos of Mpeketoni victims on his Facebook profile. It beats logic.
Social Media Etiquette is one thing that Kenyans are missing out on. In the wake of Mpeketoni attacks, many Kenyans online could not help but air their view on the attacks. As usual, many became analysts analyzing the situation and giving their view on ‘who might be behind the attack’. In the end, bloody photos of the victims were doing rounds online with ‘my people’ tags. The cosmetic analysts online were flaring with opinions, suggestions and insinuations.
I posted a Facebook Update that many might not decipher its meaning unless they are reading this article.
“In a prayer against satan, I’d expect one to mention God more than satan. Mentioning satan more than God means you are more concerned with what satan can do than what God is capable of doing. In the end, satan feels more important. In a prayer of 3 minutes, how many minutes do you use to condemn satan? Who is important? How many minutes do you spend on what is important? #Tafakari”
In that status, I was alluding to those preaching against hate speech and tribalism – while lasing their words with the same undertones. In short, what I meant is that you do not attain peace by constantly talking about war.
Social Media is a necessary evil in the Kenyan context. Just like my primary head teacher used to tell use on every assembly day that everybody is mad, but the degree of madness differ, Social Media users are equally mad but differ in their degree of madness as portrayed daily in their tweets, Facebook updates, flicker updates, Whatssap Messages, Queeps and Instagram pictures.
However, for Kenya to progress, responsible use of social media should be adhered to by all social media users. Before you tweet, think of the impact of your tweet to your followers. You do not need to tell me to kill somebody for that to qualify as incitement…all you need to do is try to portray me or insinuate that I am either ‘being targeted’ or ‘inferior’.