The rise of social media especially Facebook and Twitter has been a game changer in economic and social aspects of life. Its effect on the economic and social way of life has in no doubt been visible. For instance social media has opened cheaper advertising platforms to institutions, on the other hand it has eased the interaction between families and friends albeit creating a lack of emotional connection among people (story for another day). Africa (and Kenya included) is not left behind in internet penetration and subsequent adoption of social media.
Rise and Use of Social Media
Now, looking at the aspect of politics and in this case Kenyan politics we can clearly say that social media has brought in a new card if not changed the ‘game’ of politics in Kenya. Politicians are using social media to send their messages to the public and the public on the other hand is putting across their grievances to the relevant political bodies through the platform as well, but how effective is this set up?
Unfortunately politicians are using the platform to trade insults and accusations with each other while engaging their supporters in doing the same hence creating an online war between opposing factions. Supporters are even going to an extent of creating blogs which publish in most cases hate speech on their opposing alliances. Online polls on preferred candidates for certain posts are also conducted on social media, often leading to argument regardless of the result.
So the question is, Should social media be used as a tool to air political views and if so what and who should regulate the same? Secondly is social media really a reflection of what the public thinks about politics in general and lastly what effect will it have on the coming general elections in Kenya.
First of all it is everybody’s right to speak their mind, however on social media people are exercising this right while denying others their rights, calling people names is an abuse to those peoples rights therefore there should be responsibility accompanying the use of social media in airing political views.
Secondly, social media cannot be a reflection on the public’s political views sine less than 50% of Kenyan population are not connected to the internet or know how social media works. In addition there is no control on who says what on social media or how many accounts one can have so social media cannot be used to scientifically conclude people’s views on politics.
Lastly, what next for social media and politics in Kenya? Social media will NOT have effect on the outcome of the coming general elections in Kenya, one because not all voters are on social media to air their grievances and two a Facebook account or twitter account is not a voter’s card a politician may have 1 million followers but only three hundred followers are registered of which not all of them are his/her supporters.
All Kenyans should watch what they say not only on social media but also in public especially leaders so that we don’t create tensions among ourselves.
[Guest post by @GeoffKaris. Connect with Geoffrey on Twitter.]