The Kenyan Truth Meter: Memes

Kenya as a country is a marvel by itself. I recently wrote about harnessing the value of an acre and skills development following a mentorship session that I was invited to facilitate for pharmacy students in one of the universities in the country. Reflecting on the Kenyan economic outlook having been a pharmacist for over 35 years, one of the lecturers gave a narration the economic outlook of the country in the 1990’s through the multiparty political years among others where the economic growth was in the negatives for a couple of years before recovering in bits. From his experience, the greatest attribute of Kenyans in a quote was the fact that, Kenyans when things get tough, rather than despair they push themselves harder and emerge victorious. This is true to the extent that I’ve been keen on the national standing and outlook. We never give up and are always hopeful however baseless at times it might seem. One other thing that I’ve noted in the recent past especially over the last two (2) years have been the tendency of Kenyans to express their feelings through memes.

Memes when I got to know or rather interact with them were more of humorous and entertaining but I had never taken time to review them on a national scale in the context of our circumstances. Today this became one of my self-initiated projects where I reflected on a couple of trending memes which often reflect the common feeling of Kenyans at that particular phase and period in time if not a comical expression of current affairs. Over the last two months, from memes about being kidnapped to the current memes on cost of living that have captured trends on negotiating for alternative payment options, cutting on the quantities or even changing the particular product to take with the key factor being cost. Looking at it through the day I realized that as a country, the economy is struggling but this may not be outright because we never tell others how difficult life is on our end. To the contrary, when we come online it’s either memes to express how we feel by disguising it not to be associated with us while our actual features portray opulence & perfection.

A social economist keen to determine the social and economic status of the country at any one point in time can do so through review & analysis of memes and the benefit of it is that even those who share them relate with the feeling thus are driven to share. It’s part of socialization as described by Charles Horton Cooley with the looking-glass self where our identity, experiences and expressions are based on imagining how we must appear, imagining others judgements on us and acting according to that judgement while expressing our feelings in a way that’s acceptable & understandable based on the social context.

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