WhatsApp: The New Age Illusion of Friendships Among Kenyan Young Adults

  • Stella MwangiEmail author
Part of the Media Business and Innovation book series (MEDIA)


Social Media, Facebook in particular has been found to create the illusion of socialization without actual communication. While making new friends is hard for most people, use of social media has been said to make this even harder as people are no longer making the effort to have friendships offline due to the ease of having them online. With advancement in technology, we have seen social media and mobile phones converge through the now famous mobile platform WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a mobile messaging platform which allows anyone with the application to message each other free and very fast. In Kenya, the use of WhatsApp has caught up very fast. Guided by the Relational Dialectics theory, Media System Dependency theory and Strong and Weak Ties theory, this study sought to find out how popular WhatsApp is among Kenyan youths is and how the use of WhatsApp is influencing friendships by employing convenience sampling.

The study was conducted in the months of May and June, through an online questionnaire, revealed that connectivity among Kenyan youths has become more possible through the use of WhatsApp. People are now keeping in touch with people they would not have communicated with, if WhatsApp did not exist. WhatsApp has also become a strong communication tool for keeping in touch with friends and family living abroad. The data further reveals that even though Kenyan Youths are connected now more than ever, the bonds of friendship are weak ties. The study established that WhatsApp creates an illusion of friendship among Kenyan youths while in reality, real friendships do not exist.


Social media WhatsApp Mobile phones Personal relationships 


  1. Acton, B., & Koum, J. (2014). WhatsApp blog. Retrieved from
  2. Anderson, T., & Emmers-Sommer, T. (2006). Predictors of relationship satisfaction in online romantic relationships. Communication Studies, 57(2), 153–172. doi: 10.1080/10510970600666834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baxter, L.A., & Montgomery, B.M. (1996). Relating: Dialogues and dialectics. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
  4. Brown, A. (2011). Relationships, community, and identity in the new virtual society. Futurist, 45 (2), 29–34.Google Scholar
  5. Charney, T., & Greenberg, B. (2001). Uses and gratifications of the Internet. In C. Lin & D. Atkin (Eds.), Communication, technology and society: New media adoption and uses and gratifications (pp. 383–406). Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.Google Scholar
  6. Church, K., & Oliveira, R. d. (2013). What’s up with WhatsApp? Comparing mobile instant messaging behaviors with traditional SMS. In MOBILE HCI—Collaboration and communication (pp. 352–361). Munich.Google Scholar
  7. Colin, R. (2002). Real world research: A resource for social scientists and practitioner researchers (2nd ed.). Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  8. Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Humanipo. (2014, April 21). 67 % of phones sold smartphones—Safaricom. Retrieved June 2, 2015, from
  10. Kietzmann, J. H., Hermkens, K., McCarthy, I. P., & Silvestre, B. S. (2011). Social media? Get serious! Understanding the functional building blocks of social media. Business Horizons, 54(SPECIAL ISSUE: SOCIAL MEDIA), 241–251.Google Scholar
  11. Mitchell, P. (2000). Internet addiction: Genuine diagnosis or not? The Lancet, 355(9204), 632.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. O’Hara, K., Massimi, M., Harper, R., Rubens, S., & Morris, J. (2014). Everyday dwelling with WhatsApp. Proceedings of the 17th ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (pp. 1131–1142). Baltimore, MD: ACM.Google Scholar
  13. Soliman, D. A., & Salem, M. S. (2014). Investigating intention to use mobile instant messenger: The influence of sociability, self-expressiveness, and enjoyment. The Journal of American Academy of Business, Cambridge, 19(2), 286–293.Google Scholar
  14. Sun, S., Rubin, A. M., & Haridakis, P. M. (2008). The role of motivation and media involvement in explaining internet dependency. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 52(3), 408–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Techweez. (2014, March 5). 49 % of Kenyan mobile users are on WhatsApp. Retrieved May 18, 2015, from

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Daystar UniversityNairobiKenya

Personalised recommendations