Social media users in Kenya are now beginning to abandon Facebook in favour of TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram, in a global seismic shift towards ditching the world’s most popular social network, a new survey indicates.

The research, The Kenyan Social Media Landscape: Trends and Emerging Narratives, 2020, conducted by Social Media Lab Africa (SIMElab Africa), a survey centre at United States International University (USIU-Africa) shows that WhatsApp is the most popular app, with 89 percent of Kenyans who own smartphones using it.

Compared to 2019, the report shows that the number of Facebook daily users has declined by 6.8 percent while the number of Snapchat users has increased by 17.3 percent, Twitter users have soared by 13.4 percent and Instagram users grew by 7.2%.

Facebook, according to Edison Research, has lost more than 15 million users in the United States alone in the past three years, with the decline being sharper among younger users.

The SIMElab Africa report says that TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram are attracting more users, at 63 percent, 67 percent and 61 percent respectively.Snapchat, TikTok and Pinterest are much more likely to be used by users who are 14-20 years old, while the social media users who are 21-25 years old use Instagram, Snapchat and Telegram.

Users aged 26-35 years old are more active on the professional network LinkedIn, Skype, and Twitter and have tried to avoid using pseudo names.

This is the age group where many people seek to establish their careers.36-45 year-olds mostly use Facebook and WhatsApp, 26-35-year olds use LinkedIn and Skype while those aged 45 years and above use WhatsApp and Skype.

The number of WhatsApp users who use social networking apps on mobile phones have decreased from 97.5 percent in 2019 to 90 percent in 2020 as many users’ access WhatsApp social networking site from their offices, increasing the number of desktop (3 percent) and laptop (7 percent) users.

A majority of Kenyans in the rural areas use Facebook Messenger at 45.3 percent, Facebook at 44.5 percent and WhatsApp at 44.2 percent, compared to a majority of urban residents who use TikTok at 67.9 percent, Vimeo at 67.4% percent, and Pinterest at 63.4 percent.

Technological infrastructure challenges in remote areas prevent the use of high resource-demanding social media sites and apps.Most Kenyans are using social media for social issues, entertainment, education, jobs, politics, sports, religion, and environment and climate matters.

Data on social media frequency of use shows that 91 percent of WhatsApp users access the channel daily, with 8 percent accessing it weekly.

“Some 77 percent of Facebook users visit the site daily, 19 percent use the platform weekly, while 4 percent say they visit the site less often. 67 percent of YouTube users visit the site daily, another 28 percent use it a few days a week, while 6 percent say they use the video-sharing platform less often,” the report reveals.

It also shows that 28 percent of social media users in the country spend more than two hours online daily. However, a 54 percent of Kenyans spend less than one hour on social media per day.

“30 percent of WhatsApp users, 21 percent of YouTube users and 20 percent of Vimeo users spend more than 3 hours online daily, while 60 percent of WhatsApp users, 46 percent of Facebook users and 29 percent of YouTubers spend more than 2 hours online everyday. LinkedIn has 43 percent of users who use it for less than thirty minutes daily, despite its popularity in job-related issues,” the study discloses.

52.2 percent of Kenyans spend more time on social media at night and in the evening hours, compared to 17.8 percent who use it in the morning.

This, the research points out, could be attributed to the fact that these are the times of the day when most Kenyans are at home after their day’s work.

Kenyans are now posting information that they know is deliberately misleading, biased, or has manipulated narratives and facts. 

According to the report, over 86 percent of Kenyans say that they have come across false, incorrect, or inaccurate news on social media and have shared the misinformation.

 “This could be in the form of entirely fabricated content created to intentionally disinform for revenue or influence or to whip up emotions. 83.2 percent of Kenyans indicate that they have seen biased and deliberately misleading information on social media,” the survey indicates. 

28.3 percent of users say they find misleading and biased information on social media frequently with just 16.8 percent of social media users reporting they have never seen any deliberately misleading information, but 54.9 percent find this kind of information occasionally. 

About 83.5 percent of Kenyans, the report says, have come across fake news on social media, and are likely to have shared the same.

33 percent have spotted fake news on social media frequently, while 51 percent find fake news on social media at least occasionally. 

81 percent of Kenyans indicate that they have seen negative news on social media and are likely to have shared it, with 28 percent saying that they do find negative news on social media frequently, while 53 percent see such news occasionally.

 “The widespread dissemination of these inaccuracies and falsehoods on social media has been made worse by the lack of tools for verifying photos and videos, or for quickly checking the sources of the stories when they appear on an individual’s Facebook feed, Twitter timeline, YouTube playlist or any other posts on social networking pages,” the research explains. 

Mr Philip Ogolla, founder of Digital Humanitarian says that fake news in the country is spread by individuals who want to be first to break news, with some of them going to the extent of creating screenshots and fake quotes.  

“I know some families affected by coronavirus who no longer go online or visit social media sites, because of the misinformation around the pandemic,” he notes. 

Most people fail to check the source of the information that they view on social media before sharing it, which can lead to fake news going viral.

 “The only way to stop spreading misinformation, disinformation, and fake news is for social media users to stop sharing it. However, the situation is worsened by the use of social media bots or artificial social media profiles.”

Social media bots are easily built using Artificial Intelligence algorithms to spread inaccuracies and falsehoods online. Social media bots are common on Twitter where they are known for tweeting fake news items, and replying to or commenting on the posts of real social media users. 

With Twitter’s deep learning algorithm prioritizing content with greater prior engagement rather than recent tweets, it is easier to spread fake news through the bots as they will keep replying to content that has already gotten a lot of retweets and mentions, automatically. 

The survey also discloses that social media harassment is becoming increasingly common and with technology eliminating the traditional borders, perpetrators of social media facilitated crimes could be miles away from the victim.

 Social media facilitated crimes usually have dreadful real-world impacts on victims. 61.3 percent of the social media users in urban areas have experienced severe online harassment compared to 38.7 percent of rural area residents. 

More severe’ harassment includes physical threats, stalking, sustained harassment and sexual harassment on social media, while ‘less severe’ denotes negative online experience such as abusive behavior, offensive name-calling, body shaming, bullying and impersonation. 

Some people have opted to remove their social media profiles in hopes of avoiding online harassment.

 “40 percent of social media users aged 21-25 years old and 32 percent of those aged 26-35 years have personally experienced the “less severe” forms of online harassment,” the study shows. 

Still, online harassment is more common among the residents of low-income areas (47.6 percent) in Nairobi than those living in the middle-income (28.5 percent) and high-income (23.9 percent) areas. 

Over 38 percent of social media users aged 21-25 years have personally experienced the “more severe” forms of online harassment, followed by 26-35-year-olds at 33.6 percent, 36-45 year-olds at 12.4 percent, 14-20 year-olds at 11 percent and 46 years and above at 4.6 percent. 

In addition, 53.5 percent of men and 46.4 percent of women indicate that they have experienced online harassment including physical threats, stalking, sustained harassment and sexual harassment on social media. 

While most Kenyans access social media using mobile apps, privacy remains a critical concern and that is pushing more users have to prefer using mobile browsers which are presumed to offer more privacy features than standalone mobile apps.

Even though the cost of internet in Kenya is considered to be among the cheapest in Africa, the average cost of access has remained relatively high, making social media access generally unaffordable to many Kenyans. 

Kenya is seventh in Africa in the internet affordability index, second in terms of internet speed bu with the highest smartphone penetration rate, according to the World Bank Digital Report of 2019.

 “This could be the reason why 54.3 percent of people living in urban areas access social media from free public hotspots, while 46.1 percent of the people living in rural areas access social media from the cyber cafés and most of the people aged 25 and above access social media from offices.” 

Social media Big Data mining is happening on Twitter, with organizations searching for information they can use for purposes of proper decision making. The use of pseudonyms in some social and political roles can enrich online interactions by enabling unfiltered online conversations. Most influencers use their real names to stand out from the crowd. 57.8 percent of men have used pseudonyms in online conversations when using social media, compared with 42.1 percent of women.

 “Our society is conservative, often making it ‘unsafe’ for netizens to make absolute statements or hold unpopular opinions. Thus, in our context, anonymity has been used as a tool to break out of our conservative shells,” says Immaculate Tallam of SIMElab. There is rising addiction of social media platforms, attributable to the high number of sports betting apps that place several ads on the platforms, based on the betting search history of users. 

“Social media addiction is notably visible among Kenyan youth, especially college and university students. Internet gambling and social media addiction have been gradually increasing,” Augustine Kihiko of University of KwaZulu Natal remarks. 

In Kenya, the survey shows that extroverts appear to use more social media tools for enhancement, whereas their introvert counterparts use them for social compensation.

“WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube have maintained majority share in markets in Africa, but there are several other networks gaining interest. Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitch, TikTok are just a few that are catching up. These networks bring added value to users by focusing on niche elements,” says Ashleigh Jacobs, African Product Manager for Hootsuite.


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