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Role of Social Media in Kenya: A Threat or Opportunity

Over the past few years social media in Kenya has emerged as a very powerful frontier for mass communication. Media in the Kenya of today has an influence on morality and carries with it some repercussion. Kenyans, Christians (Catholics) included are called upon to offer constructive criticism and solutions so that the media can play a positive role in our society. Due to the pace of life that many people are forced to live, advances in science that offer them options that they never had before, the potentially confusing amount of information that impacts their lives through modern communications and information technologies and the array of entertainment choices available to people even in the privacy of their homes. Kenyans must find a way to reconnect their faith and life as well as forge for reconciliation, unity and peace among persons with diverse political, sociocultural and religious views just to mention a few.

As things appears in Kenya, cyber technology is increasingly becoming a key and powerful “tool box” of human communication, politicking, learning, information dissemination and an opportunity for wholistic transformation. Mobile phones are increasingly becoming not only a luxury but a necessity that even an illiterate person in a rural Kenya arguably sees it useful. Moreover internet connectivity(cyber cafes) is becoming the most popular form of personaland community technology in our societythan ever before.

During this year’s Kenya General Election in particular, many Kenyans were clued to their TVs sets either at the comfort of their homes, neighbors or at a nearby shopping center braving the night colds in order to follow presidential, senatorial, women representatives, gubernatorial and MPs results. Others twittered, used facebook or followed the results on-line. This was a great and an interesting moment for Kenya where the social media connected us as one Kenyan family.

Few days following what can be termed a generally peaceful (with a few reports of physical violence) elections, announcement of the 4th Kenyan President, and subsequent petitions challenging some results, some Kenyan took the media as a placeless place to wage war among each other. Prime Minister Raila Odinga challenged the General Elections results and after two weeks presentations by lawyers at the Supreme Court a final decision was made on 30th March 2013 by the Court which ruled that the Elections had been free and fair, and subsequently Uhuru Kenyatta was confirmed the 4th President of Kenya.

As observed in the recent post-election attacks through the cyberspace, it can be noted that cyberspace is largely non-hierarchical and sometimes anti-authoritarian. This in itself is a very challenging and worrying phenomenon that calls for an education of Kenyan population on “media” ethics. Media has no boundaries, benchmarks or standards, and fosters limitless freedom, at least in Kenya. Since public opinion exercises the greatest power and authority today in every sphere of life, both private and public, every member of society must fulfill the demands of justice and charity in this area. As a result, all must strive, through these media as well, to form and spread sound public opinion.

Nonetheless, cyberspace could be a golden opportunity, aKairostime for the Catholic Church in Kenya to “evangelize” cyberspace and cyber technology especially with the Gospel values and rich African value of respect of neighbor and one’s word. Positively, there is need to rethink anew as to how Kenyan ecclesial communities, church organizations and various institutions could mobilize its resources, human and capital so as to reach more and more youth of today andat the same time the general population in her quest for reconciliation, justice and peace in our land. Since, African communities uphold good moral standards/ values for its people and there are different accepted morals in different communities, social media could be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat for our people to share their African values with the global world.Moreover, media could be a space where the voiceless members of the community such as women could channel their views.