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“Facebook is a Luxury”: An Exploratory Study of Social Media Use in Rural Kenya

Susan P. Wyche, Sarita Yardi Schoenebeck, Andrea Forte

Facebook use is pervasive in developed countries where computers, smartphones, high-bandwidth Internet, and electricity are ubiquitous. In this paper, we examine Facebook use in a country where social media participation is growing, but less developed technological infrastructures and uneven access to technology limit use. We conducted observations and 24 interviews at Internet cafés in rural Kenya. Our findings reveal how costs associated with using the Internet, limited access to computers and smartphones and unreliable electricity hinder online participation. We draw on these results to discuss the critical role of constraints in understanding social media use, to raise questions about broadening online participation and to highlight ethical issues researchers must consider when studying Facebook use in developing regions.

Link to the full paper.

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