Kenyans and Facebook…

Can you tell that I am ‘otherwise occupied’ with Summer fun? Let’s say that since the sun started rising at 5 am, I have been busy enjoying it to the max (and I have the sunburn to prove it!). Working on other stuff has left my blog to suffer (there there poor baby)! I’m proud though to have submitted two short stories for consideration in a writing competition later this year so my absence has not been all about joyous, easy fun!

I am on Facebook for at least 30 minutes a day (OK, I lie, probably a lot more time than that) and I have to say that my opinion of it is mostly positive- after all, I have an inner circle of friends who put up links to interesting stories, who share well-narrated albums of their exploits…you get the picture. Facebook allows us to keep in touch between phonecalls and to maintain a sense that we’re not miles and miles apart which was the way it felt before facebook.  This inner circle of friends (small group) has full access to my profile. Then there are the ‘limited profile’ friends who only see the little that I’ll let them- these are people I may have gone to school with but am no longer close to, or people who are newer acquaintances. I never accept friendship requests from people I don’t like or want to share information with (the point of Facebook after all is sharing) and from the start, the demarcation between all-access and limited profile was very distinct.

There are countless articles out there about Facebook etiquette. I do not want to be a Facebook pest: I don’t post anything there that I wouldn’t tell friends face to face, or tag them in unflattering poses just because I happen to like how I look in a shot, or clutter my profile with endless quizzes or bother them to join new groups or upload new applications which I have discovered etc…I don’t send them chain letters from my email either so why start that up on Facebook.

As more and more people in Kenya joined Facebook, my friends list grew (family, old high school and primary school classmates) quite fast. I don’t have as many friends as some people since my rules for adding them are quite strict, but just from the hundred-and-something friends added, I have learned:

  • People need to have a better handle of Facebook’s privacy settings. I have clicked on a photo of a friend tagged in a stranger’s album and ended up with an eyeful of unflattering pictures seared to memory. Like the one taken at some random party where the highlight seems to be a grown (Kenyan) man, complete with beer potbelly, clad in diapers, with dummy in mouth. Seriously? And these are the ‘young professionals building our country’? If I can see these pictures, so too might your client from tomorrow’s meeting, and instead of listening to your spiel they will be wondering what the hell is wrong with you! If you intend to do stupid crap like this, please keep it to yourself? A camera is not a licence to photograph everything!
  • Some people have decided to use Facebook as their ‘therapy’. If you felt slighted or that you weren’t the cutest back in high school, plonk a few pictures in an album of yourself made up and decked out sitting in your obscenly tacky living room (kwanza there is this one style of couch that is  repeatedly found in all households where bad taste resides…hmmm…it is the ‘velvet sofa’*** of our generation)staring serenely into the distance. Then you sit back and wait for the glowing reviews (I’m yet to see comments on a picture that say, “honey, that style doesn’t suit you, or, have you thought of a strapless bra? snigger snigger). If I see one more picture of so-and-so’s living room!!! These pictures make me wonder, “how come I have never had the urge to pose (mid-week) on my new IKEA sofa, made up, polished and de-clawed, ready for my close-up?”  What is it with people? I’m not saying that I don’t want to see pictures of you, but the obviously posed, stiff pictures a la Ramogi studios get a bit irritating after a while and they reek of a need to be validated as having ‘arrived’. Sorry not to oblige but thanks for the writing fodder.
  • I lump some wedding photos in there- if we are just acquaintances, why am I seeing your wedding album? Isn’t that something special to share with close friends aka those who actually care that you married so-and-so hence the new double-barrelled surname? Again, it reeks of some kind of ‘take that bitches!!!’ indulgence. Or maybe I am not an exhibitionist. Or maybe I don’t view having a husband as an ‘achievement’ like a degree LOL.

Actually, I think Facebook has become the new home for the tea-break-at-work cattiness or church-service-fashion-showdowns our mothers ‘ generation engaged in. It is the place where a young man can put down his exploits for posterity rather than having to wait until all his buddies are in town to hear them. This generation of young Kenyans is putting their whole lives online for everyone to see and they don’t give a damn…on the one hand it makes for interesting research when I’m bored at work, but on the other…

  • Irresponsible posting abounds. People forget (or don’t care) that your wall is public so I have actually seen someone’s pregnancy outed by a ‘friend’s’ comment on their Facebook wall!!! I mean, even if you know of a friend’s good news, please wait until they acknowledge it before you post to their wall! I mean, they know they are pregnant after all, so why the need to post it on their wall? Or, send a private email rather than just blurting it out to the world! Jeez!  Talk of stealing someone’s thunder. Even better, you take a picture with cute guy, a ‘friend’ comments, “Wow! Is that your hubby (hate that word)?”about cute guy…aka your brother! (Serves you right for letting someone who clearly doesn’t know you to see that picture, but said ‘friend’ should send private message rather than reveal their utter ignorance of your family).
  • There are some zealously religious Kenyans on Facebook.  I don’t mind you being religious- I mind you taking each opportunity to bombard me with poorly written, over-the-top, spiritual zest. Seriously, everyone and their mother is releasing religious tracts at a rate that amazes me…you are not the next Billy Graham so please, stop. I am not religious, thank you very much. Now please, stop with the proselytizing! (This should be the lead-in to my next post about the ‘born again Kenyan’ and why I am not a member of an organized religion anymore)
  • The worst of all these observations is the one where I go out with friend A. At one stage of the evening we take pictures and I end up looking like quite the cute thing, but my friend looks a bit odd…so I upload the picture and tag my friend so now anyone who knows me, or her, gets to see me looking fantabulous while my friend looks like crap. OR, the most heinous- a friend was tagged by er campus friend who also had pictures of women taken unbeknownst to them as they walk by, whereby he remarks on their anatomy!!!!! I would kill you!!!! All I could say is that she should…defriend, defriend, defriend this bastard- that is no different than if he stalked the women and put cameras in their bathrooms…who does he think he is? (A young professional who I would never hire if his CV ever came across my desk).

Facebook has made me realize that Kenyans have taken our lack of respect for boundaries online. Oh and privacy?  just a suggestion. They do not distinguish levels of friendship. My close friends are few. The next level of friends is a bit wider, and if I started counting all my acquaintances we would be here all day. They don’t all need to see all about me on Facebook…so I limit their access (what they don’t know won’t hurt them)…I’m happy to get back in touch, and to share the good/sad things that you would like to share with me, but I am also aware that there are things which I do not wish to be privvy to, and would not hate you for leaving me off your ‘close friends’ list (like the pictures of you passed out drunk at some hell drinking hole last weekend.  This perceived lack of privacy is why some of my Kenyan friends are leery of Facebook and its potential for TMI, Weird friends etc BUT, Facebook is fine if you control what/who has access to your information and where/how your information is used. It’s not like the information worms its way there uncontrolled by you- people only see what you let them or what you put out there, so manage the content and you will be fine. With the advent of faster internet access in Kenya, it may be a while before the magnitude of their laissez faire attitude towards their privacy settings hits or hurts some ‘friends’…Facebook: a good tool when used wisely.

OK, I’ve got to go and check whether my friend made it to her new destination as she starts a new adventure!

***At one point in the late 1970s to the early 1980s, a Kenyan family’s status could be measured by their upholstery…there was this style wave that hit the country and took it by storm! The velvet sofa set!! To my knowledge, every middle class home had or aspired to have one.  The colour range was limited to Blue (powder or midnight), Cherry Maroon, Overripe Avocado Green- Brown, and the odd Pink. We had them (ours were-still are- maroon), and it cracks me up now when I think of it! The Sofa Set that defined a nation 🙂

Pardon any snarkiness, Vancouver is experiencing extreme heat. I don’t ‘do heat’ :)…OK, maybe I’m always snarky…

15 Comments

Filed under Dunia ina Mambo

15 responses to “Kenyans and Facebook…

  1. egm

    Which is why you won’t find even a wall on my profile. Yet some people have decided that since I don’t have a wall, they will post whatever messages the want either on my status updates or photos I upload. Messages that have nothing to do with either the update or photo! I decided long ago to remove anything that could be removed from my profile, leaving only those things that FB won’t allow me to remove, groups, photos and visual books. I really do wonder at the TMI displayed on there. As you say, maybe there are exhibitionists and we just don’t fit that mould!

    • Lakini EGM your profile is very bare…if I may say so myself :). I think people need to understand that FB is just a fun thing and not life or death, keep it light, keep it simple…now I have no qualms about declining invitations and ignoring friend requests- once you let an app in, there’s no telling what can happen to you and your privacy…

  2. a most comprehensive write up. i tell you. i invite only the lot of friends who i consider close and leave it at that. all stuff is locked down tight, i have no photos, do i? i have to go check, i am hardly ever on facebook. i wonder what you shall tell us about twitter. have you joined?

    • Ha ha Nikolas- you may be locked down tight but if you are friends with Wanja ‘tell-all’ Kihii and her sister Jane Doe, you have been tagged out there while minding your own business at their 30th ahem, 29th birthday party (I find a strong correlation between women who are ‘shy’ about their age and TMI LOL- unscientific research conclusion)…As for twitter- alas it’s not for me- I am too wordy.
      Digression: I read something that made me giggle…a British person asked, is the past tense of to tweet, twat?

  3. prou

    Oh my, the woes of facebook. To me it is simply for keeping in touch and sharing. I cannot stand the numerous quizzes and the crap that comes along with it.
    It’s been wonderful to see old friends and relatives but kenyans really need to get a grip of themselves just as you say.

    • Ditto.
      FB has been good for connecting, especially with the distances between us. I put up some pictures from a recent trip to a museum and I didn’t think much about it, till my friends mentioned how much they enjoyed seeing the art…I mean, if you can’t see a Picasso wherever you live, then isn’t it great that through FB, I can share that with you?

      Better that than pictures of me lip-synching and dancing very badly to some Chaka Khan 🙂

  4. K.G

    Agree with the whole privacy thing and people getting a handle on it. Am maybe weird but i keep two accounts..my workmates, american friends and network on one and my kenyan one for family, friends and that deskmate from god knows nursery school who feels like contecting with me. I have noticed also the renegade no-wall clique is growing too. Because i surf a ton of sites and read a bunch of different stuff i cant spare the time for the tests or wall gifts.

  5. Liz

    You might or might not find this interesting: How to Manage Your Online Life When You’re Dead
    http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1916317,00.html

    That’s what it has come to….

    I suppose you won’t be sharing the link on FB? 😉

    • DOn’t laugh, but I have considered putting together a book with all my passwords so that my family can cancel my accounts if I meet an untimely end- then I imagine them first reading all my emails before they discontinue my email account, and I say- too bad! I shall be on Facebook long after I’m gone :)…

  6. Hahaha Wambui 🙂 – Facebook, Facebook!

    Good for “re-connecting” and staying in touch – lakini I believe most of us need to edit our privacy settings!

    But dont you think its mostly acquaintances that “push it” – like tagging pictures of you – pictures that should not have been taken in the first place!, making “lewd” comments of updates or your wall etc?

    Which is why like you – you vuka some boundaries and you are either de-friended or thoroughly blocked to most of the functionalities !

    Ok – I am supposed to be “resting” till I get rid of this Malaria so let me go my way!!

  7. Hello! I thought i was the only one on blog- hiatus. how are you?

    • Hi! I have been too busy living in the real world at the expense of my online life. I am doing well and will be back here shortly (maybe even today)…plans are underway to revamp the look of my blog and maybe even upgrade it- time to refurbish.
      I went by yours- pole sana about your SIL.

  8. anon

    Great post! You reminded me of a friend who is close to being “unfriended” because of her penchant for posting the most unflattering photos of her friends (I still live in fear that that one photo of me in an orange adidas jacket where I look remarkably like a pumpkin is going to turn up at a most inopportune moment – it’s the reason I’m posting anon haha). I’ve discovered the joys of culling “deadwood”: friends who I’d never really be friends with in the non-virtual world. Yes, I’m talking about the snarky princesses out there and the one guy from high school who has become so militantly pro-zionist and cannot stop weighing in on how evil the Palestinians are(we’re talking pages and pages of Pro-Israeli manifestos – like I give a shit) that I recently wanted to literally reach into the computer and punch him in the head. No politics on Facebook, please.

    • That is so funny! Now you should just go to this so-called friend’s house and steal all evidence of the orange adidas jacket…only then do you defriend them ’cause what’s to stop them from still posting the picture once you are no longer a friend? Deadwood friends kill me (no pun)! They collect friends then do nothing with them. I am also going to start defriending those who I don’t actually ‘talk’ to on FB…what’s the use. It’s not so much the politics/religion that bug me, as the sanctimonius tone of these religious/political tracts. It makes me see how irrational and insensitive and all those other negative adjectives, people can be…all in the name of ‘being right’…

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