The usage of social media among young adults living in Nairobi, Kenya : only entertainment or contributions to societal change?
Disciplinekulttuurienvälinen viestintäMaster's Degree Programme in Intercultural CommunicationEnglannin kieliEnglish
Social media usage has been found to have increased all over the world, also in the so-called developing countries. Although the percentages are still rather low, it can be argued that the use of social media is becoming increasingly important also in African countries. Kenya has been found to be one of the leading countries regarding social media usage in East Africa. Although research on social media has been conducted, for instance, on the use of social media in protest movements and in the areas of users’ motivation, less emphasis has been placed on their developmental aspects. Thus, to gain a deeper understanding of the usage of social media in the so-called developing countries, this study will focus on the perceptions of the actual users. Through the users’ own reflections, the study will not only look at which platforms the interviewees were using and how, but also examine the users’ motivation for the usage. Furthermore, the study will explore whether the interviewees perceive social media as channels to have an impact on civic life related issues, and therefore use them for developmental purposes. In order to answer these questions, thirteen semi-structured interviews were conducted among young adults in Nairobi, Kenya. Half of the interviewees were living in an informal settlement and half were from middle class families. Young adults were chosen as the target group, since they can be assumed to be more familiar with social media than the older generations. Furthermore, they are the coming generation to take over the civic responsibilities from the older generations and therefore, their perceptions and attitudes can be said to reflect the future developments in the country. The data was analyzed by utilizing qualitative content analysis. The information gained through the interviews exemplifies that social media have been used in many ways and for various purposes, depending on the user. However, also some differences were found between the groups. Middle class young adults were found not only to use a wider variety of platforms but also to use these platforms for more specified purposes. It seems that although the digital divide between people with access and people without seems to be slowly closing, there might be a second level divide emerging in relation to the digital literacy skills of the users from different socioeconomic groups. Furthermore, even though social media were found to be used mainly for entertainment, social and informational purposes, the interviewees seemed to utilize social media also to manifest different forms of civic and political participation. Although often accused of being passive, this study supports the argument that young adults merely have new ways of participation. All in all, despite being used mostly for entertainment, social media usage was also perceived to contribute to concrete changes in the community or in the society. ...
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