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Kenyans lead in using online groups - study

By Mercy Adhiambo | November 30th 2020
By Mercy Adhiambo | November 30th 2020

You have probably received an invite to join a Facebook group. Maybe you are among the many Facebook group users who flip through online posts and photos to smile about the random stories and personal experiences that define most of those spaces.

From spouses sharing romantic messages on the popular Thriving Couples group, travel lovers reminiscing at Wanderlust group, to young men learning about cooking, Facebook groups in Kenya have become a community where strangers meet to share experiences.

Facebook says in Africa, Kenyans are the most active users of social media groups.

According to a survey released by Facebook on Wednesday, 98 per cent of Kenyans interviewed said they were members of a social media group. In a month, more than 10 million Kenyans actively engage in groups.

Of the people surveyed, 45 per cent said they were active in groups daily for many hours, compared to an average of 26 per cent for other countries in Africa.

The survey was done in 15 African countries, and Kenyans emerged top when it comes to the number of users who spend a significant amount of time on Facebook groups.

“Kenyans are deeply communal. The report confirmed how they are always reaching out to each other for support. The groups have got even more active during the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Facebook communication manager for Eastern Africa Janet Kemboi.

The survey showed 97 per cent of people who are active in groups have got some form of support through those platforms during the pandemic.

“The support ranged from helping others shop for their groceries during the lockdown, sharing vital information about the pandemic from health authorities and providing financial support to local businesses,” said the report.

A majority (68 per cent) confirmed having received emotional support from groups during the pandemic, and as many as 75 per cent of those surveyed said they had given emotional support to others. 

Seeking support in a closed online group has been a growing trend, with most social media group administrators saying within a short time, they start noticing a sense of belonging among people who, in most cases, start off as strangers.

Dr Elizabeth Wala, who founded the now popular Wanderlust group, says she created the group when there were travel restrictions due to the pandemic. She wanted it to offer space for people to reminisce about places they have visited, and have hope about the future, and places that awaited them to explore after the travel bans had been lifted.

In less than five months, the group had more than 300,000 users.

Tricia Wanjala, founder of Tricia’s Natural group that has close to 200,000 members, says it was born out of her desire to learn how to take care of her natural hair. During the pandemic, she says, she has seen even more people who could no longer go to the salon reaching out to learn how to take care of their hair at home.

What started as a small group of people with love for natural hair as their unifying factor, she says, has continued to bring together many people.

Of the Kenyans surveyed, 88 per cent confirmed that the most important group they are part of at the moment operates online and they are willing to continue supporting and engaging with their groups in future.

The survey shows that most of the groups are built around people who share a common trade, a profession, a hobby or an activity.

Even though many have found space to express themselves, some groups have also been flagged for encouraging cyber bullying.

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