When I first joined Twitter in 2012, I joined it for the memes and funny tweets. There was always an account dishing these out and it was free. There weren’t many Kenyans on Twitter back then because most “digital” people were on Facebook.
But times have changed and Twitter is a big deal in Kenya now. Almost all politicians are on it and it’s safe to say that the major news outlets derive a good chunk of their news from the goings-on on the platform (case in point, all English-based radio stations are run on Twitter because they use it to drive their agendas or it drives their agendas).
But the reality is, there is a big difference between the Twitter mob and the reality on the ground. Sure, politicians engage in discussions online but they know who truly wields the vote; the people who don’t frequent Twitter.
Why is it that way?
Let’s divide the voters into two groups: Baby Boomers and the Youth.
A majority of Baby Boomers are not on Twitter and they form a sizeable portion of voters in this country. Sure, there are a few of them who are “woke” enough to be active online but a large number of them don’t even own smartphones, let alone consider joining the platform.
When you come to the Youth, sure, they own smartphones and they spend a decent amount of time online but the reality is that a majority of them are not spending it on Twitter. They appear to spend it on WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram.
I’ve asked many friends whether they are on Twitter and a majority of them are not on it… and that’s a good thing because Twitter is bad for Kenyan politics.
Most discussions on Twitter are driven by trends, which are in turn driven by brief messages and soundbites.
And this plays perfectly to our weakness as human beings; we are distracted very easily.
The “trends” page disproportionately rewards with exposure people who are verified or who have huge followings because they can get their messages out to the most people. As a result, the algorithms make them appear authoritative.
But the problem with that logic is that these popular people are not always virtuous. The more polarizing they are, the more they get exposure. And by extension, the more polarizing a tweet is, the better it is for the sender.
Then there are the “guns for hire” or “bloggers”… those mercenaries who have large followings that monetize the influence they wield by taking payments to push certain trends. Usually, they push sycophantic messages just to annoy people, get that publicity, and get paid.
With all that taken to consideration, you’ll find many people spewing a lot of garbage online and they dictate the topics of discussion, which in most cases is just a bunch of abuse, accusations, counteraccusations, and a lot of Tribal hate.
It is a good thing that they don’t control the politics of our country and I hope we never get to see the day that becomes a reality because then, we will be f**ked.
In the meantime, if you want a sane platform for memes and mature conversations with total strangers (mostly Americans) that hasn’t been contaminated by all the Twitter vitriol, welcome to Reddit.
If you create an account there, join r/Kenya where the conversations are generally friendly.