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Gen Zers shifting media consumption habits

Friday February 14 2020

A smartphone user. Millennials are good at sharing content; Generation Z are more inclined to create content. PHOTO | AFP

A smartphone user. Millennials are good at sharing content; Generation Z are more inclined to create content. PHOTO | AFP 

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As the final tranche of Gen Zers reach their early twenties and transitions into adulthood, this generation is quickly becoming the world’s most active group of online content consumers. They are exposed to mass media forms such as music, films, visual art and books from all over the world, which has greatly influenced their habits and preferences.

They live in a world where the internet and personal computers has entered into mainstream use, and this generation is seen as highly tech savvy and dedicated to their smartphones. Due to their peculiar tastes and difficult to please predispositions, a number of stereotypes and myths have been peddled about this generation and their viewing habits – both true and false.

For instance, some believe that millennials and Gen Zers read neither books nor newspapers, but according to a research done by the Pew Research Center, millennials actually prefer to read, not watch their news—more so than their elders, actually. However, unlike their predecessors, they prefer reading digital text as opposed to print material.

In a world where one feels as if they are constantly swimming in a sea overflowing with content, four minds tell us how they choose the content they consume, and how they handle too much information.

Rebian Atieno, 28, Spoken Word Artist

Rebian Atieno.
Rebian Atieno.


Rebian is active on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp.

“I turn to social media to get acquainted with the latest dance, poetry, and music styles and genres,” she says.

She chooses the kind of songs to listen to not based on their genres, but by the kind of content presented in the songs.

“I listen mainly to foreign artists such as Jacob Banks and H.E.R. To be honest, the only time I get to consume local music is when I am using public transport, or during live concerts.

“In Kenya, Gengetone music has become so popular, but most of the things they sing about do not conform to my morals. I find that this type of music objectifies the female body and this is against my principles as a human rights defender,” she says.

But she loves Kenyan movies and plays because she feels that through them, so many pertinent issues such as mental health awareness, domestic violence and rape can be raised. She just hasn’t figured out where to buy a wider collection of local movies.

“I am too lazy to watch series, but when I have company, I sometimes watch them. I also like American movies that have African American characters because they are easier to relate to,” she says.

Needless to say, her lifestyle has been greatly influenced by the things she watches online.

“Even my dress code is inspired by music. I often dress like Jacob Banks who likes wearing hats and sunglasses. Through the music I listen to, I get information about the issues I am interested in, and this improves my art. Generally, the media I consume makes me understand my world better.

While Rebian does not watch news often, she enjoys reading newspapers.

“I get most of my news on Facebook. If there is any breaking news, I am likely to find it while viewing my contacts’ WhatsApp statuses or while going through my Twitter timeline,” she says.

Marvin Twesigye, 22, Film Student, ADMI

Marvin Twesigye.
Marvin Twesigye.

Thanks to social media and the ever growing ease of sharing information and ideas through the internet, Marvin feels well connected with the world.

“I do not remember the last time I read the hard copy of a book. I always read eBooks on my phone or kindle, which are easier and more convenient to carry around,” he says.

For music, he has YouTube.

“I like old school hip hop by Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Eminem and Puff Daddy from the 1990s because it is so relatable. These artists have even influenced my dress code.

“I also like American actor Will Smith a lot. His inspirational videos on Instagram are always so motivating. Basically, I admire individuals who have excelled in their respective fields. When Lupita Nyong’o won her first Oscars award, time stood still for me for a few moments. I realised that indeed, there are no limitations to what I can achieve,” he explains.

“I think I chose to be a photographer because there were so many magazines at home as I was growing up. Seeing the creative images, the cool poses by the subjects in those photos and the perfect lighting in each of them made me want to get a career in visual arts,” he says.

And just like many people his age, Marvin gets his news updates from Google alerts.

“I am not so active on Twitter because I feel that there is so much information there and it is hard to know if the information trending on that platform is real or just fake news, or if it is worth my time or just empty propaganda.

“I have also reduced the time I spend on Instagram because I realised it took up most of my time, which I should have spent resting, reading or doing my school work,” he says.

So, how does he avoid getting influenced to engage in destructive behaviours which are sometimes in wide display in the various social media platforms?

“I am a liberal thinker. That, and living away from home (I have lived in Rwanda and Uganda), has helped me become more open and tolerant to other people’s points of view because I have interact with many people from very diverse cultures,” he says.

Joan Kwamboka, 25, Sign Language Interpreter

Joan Kwamboka.
Joan Kwamboka.

Joan gets her entertainment content primarily from the internet, especially through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

“I like watching short, funny video clips on Facebook, and inspirational sermons or speeches from global leaders and celebrities. I also spend a lot of time reading long threads on Twitter about topics such politics, fashion, or trending news,” she says.

On her various social media platforms, Joan deliberately follows and befriends celebrities and creative content writers. That way, she always has something interesting to read, watch or listen to.

“I don’t consume a lot of news from outside Kenya. I like local songs such as Gengetone, Tanzanian Bongo, a little RnB, and whatever else is trending at a particular time,” she says.

For her, the media has a bigger role to play apart from just offering entertainment.

“I have been greatly inspired by Gabrielle Union. I got to know her when she was playing Mary Jane Paul in the serial Being MaryJane, and I liked her. I started searching for more information about her. I even follow her on social media now. Union has struggled for a long time to get a baby through natural means, and reading her story helped me confirm that I made the right decision to keep my baby. I was quite lonely when I was pregnant, but connecting with my followers and friends on social media, and getting to hear about their challenges, gave me the strength I needed to keep going,” she says.

Joan doesn’t mind watching news on TV, but she rarely gets the time to do so as she is almost always on the move during news times. For this, the internet has become her trusted source for news updates and current affairs.

“I get my news mostly from other people’s Facebook and Twitter posts.

I also follow several media houses’ social media pages so that I can get my updates anywhere, any time. The fact the news is usually condensed into shorter excerpts on Twitter is quite impressive because it is so much easier to get the information you need within a short time,” she says.

RnB is Joan’s music genre of choice. “My older siblings used to listen to a lot of RnB, and I took up after them. However, I later came to like Gengetone because it is the biggest thing in the Kenyan music scene right now, and also because most musicians who make that kind of music are young like me,” she says.

There is no denying that her fashion tastes have been influenced by the internet. She always goes for the shoes, clothes and hair styles that are popular online. At the salon, she sometimes shows up with a picture of a hair style she picked from a music video, and asks her hair dresser to recreate the look on her. “I follow so many local and international celebrities such as Amber Ray and Beyonce on social media, and they influence my choice of clothes, hairdo, and my side hustle too!

“I have a shoe-selling business, and before I decide what to stock, I look at what’s trending on social media and what’s popular in music videos, then I order for my cargo,” she says.

Also, because of the bar set by many of the celebrities she follows, Joan prefers her slender frame because she believes that that is the ideal body type.

Kimathi Chokera, 28, Performing Artist

Kimathi Chokera.
Kimathi Chokera.

“I love watching movies that have a leadership angle to them. It does not matter whether they are fiction or non-fiction based. The same applies to the kind of books I read. When I have time, I usually read up to four books every month,” Kimathi says.

When he was 22 years old, Kimathi attended a leadership training programme where he met a number of avid readers who were a little older than him.

They challenged him to read widely and wildly with the aim of getting as much knowledge and information as possible. He took their advice and chose to get the much sought after knowledge by reading books and watching educational movies.

His goal is to learn everything he can about the different leadership styles and approaches.

“It does not matter where the movie or book is from. As long as it is both entertaining and informative, I’ll read it. I studied law in undergraduate but when I completed my studies, I chose to pursue art.

“I run the Evolution Art Hub, a network of leaders from different professional backgrounds who aim to make a positive impact in the society through leadership and art. Ultimately, I hope to become a master in those two things – leadership and art,” he says.

His first book is titled Game On. There, he explores the concept of life as a game where one is either a spectator, the player, or the object being played.

In terms of music, Kimathi enjoys hip hop, but not just any kind of hip hop music.

“I prefer conscious hip hop music that highlights the issues afflicting the society. My favourite artist is Nathan Feuerstein, popularly known as NF. His music is captivating because he talks about the personal struggles he has endured with depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and losing his mum to drug addiction. This makes his music authentic.

“I do not admire artists who only talk about drugs, alcohol and sex in their music. I am enthusiastic about real life stories. Music that can make me change for the better, and give me a better understanding of how to handle other human beings,” he says.

While in a matatu or any other place where he has no control over the kind of content being played, he simply puts on his earphones.

“You will never find me playing Gengetone music in my house, but as an artist, I am aware that my content will inevitably compete against content by other local musicians, so I still have to listen to what these Gengetone artists produce so that I can come up with something unique. There is always something to learn from their music.

“For example, I appreciate the fact that they incorporate very catchy phrases in their bars, while I am more formal in my content.

“You will find me on YouTube watching a video by Kendrick Lamar, but not just for entertainment. I study him as an artist, to find out what his many fans like about him. I will even watch his interviews and behind-the-scene videos.

“For me, social media should not just be consumed for entertainment, but also as a source of knowledge,” he concludes.