Digital Activism in the Social Media Era pp 115-140
Engaged Online: Social Media and Youth Civic Engagement in Kenya
- First Online:
Historically, new technologies have led to major political, social and economic transformations. Social Networking Sites have become very popular, especially among youth. They have created new, exciting and convenient platforms for people to exchange information freely with little or no filters. They have altered people’s interactions, giving a larger base of people greater lateral and horizontal communication capabilities. Declining enthusiasm, growing apathy and high levels of cynicism among young people in civic and political sphere is major concern. However, young people spend more time online and social media platforms can be used to engage them. This study is based on the growing popularity of social media and their utilization in civic spaces. It relies on a survey of 600 university students in Kenya, aged between 18 and 35 and focus group discussions. The study found low levels of civic participation among young people in Kenya which points to a detached and disengaged youth. However, the findings indicate that social media have been utilized as effective platforms of social mobilization for citizens. The boundless nature of social media provides unlimited space to voice opinions, positions and political agenda to an expansive audience and helps in mainstreaming peripheral Issues and problems. The power of social media lies in their power to facilitate interactivity, sharing of uncensored information, creating online movements, bridging connections around a common cause, dissemination of information, and bypassing mainstream media and government restrictions. The study concludes that though social media do not directly influence offline engagement, online engagement can be used to supplement and support offline efforts.