Before Facebook, lovers living in separate continents had to contend with letters and emails. The strength of a business brand could only be felt through traditional media while politicians were accustomed to rallies and public gatherings as the sole forum of reaching the electorate.
Fast forward 15 years after the networking site was created in a dorm in Harvard University by CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the help of close friends, Facebook has impacted Kenyan lives to the extent that a good number of citizens believe that personal data mined from the site could have been used to influence the outcome of the 2017 presidential election.
In March 2018, an investigative report by British Broadcaster Channel 4 kicked off a storm after it revealed that Cambridge Analytica (CA), a research and a data mining company employed dirty tactics in the 2017 poll.
CA’s Managing Director Mark Turnbull was caught on camera claiming that the organisation rebranded Jubilee Party and the now defunct The National Alliance (TNA). Turnbull was also recorded claiming to have conducted research on behalf of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign. All that was made possible by data mined by CA from Facebook.
Hundreds of married couples have also met on Facebook and many have fallen out because of this social site. Being the first popular social site in the country, Kenyans did not waste any time in milking what the site had to offer resulting into romantic affairs for some while for others it has ended into tragic affairs.
Peter Craig, an Australian and Winnie Thuku, a Kenyan who live in Kahawa West met through Facebook and are now blessed with two children.
On the other hand, businesses have now made digital marketing a basic need in the fight to retain and get more clients.
The tech savvy Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) is the best example of an organisation that has gone all out in digital terms by constantly engaging its clients through social media. KCB has 295,000 followers on twitter and 1.1 million followers on Facebook. This shows how Facebook has been key to KCB’s digital media strategy.
With the growth in social media including Whatsapp, Instagram, Snapchat among others, the million-dollar question remains: Will Kenyans dump Facebook? Some have become weary of data mining and thus limit their interactions on and with Facebook, while the spectre of fake news hangs heavy on the site, through which self-publishers and mainstream media reach their audience.
As The Economist notes, “the relationship with Facebook continues, but the love affair is over.”