How social media leads to more lewd behaviour

Living for likes is an addiction fuelling nudes and clout chasing

In Summary

• People tend to act rudely, aggressively or illegally when their identities are hidden


In this era when anything can be leaked out into the digital realm, why would anyone record themselves in their private moments?

These are among the questions running in the minds of many when a famous social media influencer had her private conversations revealed to the entire world in a leaked video. The influencer later admitted that she, indeed, was the person in the video.

No need getting into the details of that social media leak, but that particular influencer was not the first victim of online privacy leaks. The typical trend is that content meant for a specific individual is deliberately or mistakenly leaked out into social media, much to the embarrassment of the victim.

The other explanation for why images of private moments get leaked out is when they are taken without the victim’s knowledge. This could happen while the affected person is dressing or asleep. The victim gets to know the images exist when being blackmailed or when they find themselves trending on social media.

Lots of Kenyans have been affected by this problem, with the list including musicians, actors, corporate executives, politicians, religious leaders and a presidential aspirant. Ordinary people going about their lives have also found their videos online, much to the embarrassment of their families.

“Sharing nude images or other information with a confidant should not be seen to mean that one has waived all privacy expectations,” Evelyn Wanjiku, an academic, advises in the Journal for Communication Studies in Africa. “Such information is shared on the basis of an understanding that it will remain private between the parties involved.”


Research on human behaviour has found a tendency by people to act rudely, aggressively or illegally when their identities are hidden. Furthermore, psychologists have proved that people tend to copy behaviours they find in a group, whether online or in any other place.

If a group is filled with aggressive language and perverted behaviour, anyone joining will adopt the same habits to gain acceptance from everyone else.

Thus, social media users eventually find out that polite, thoughtful and considerate content does not provoke a reaction. Instead, controversy attracts lots of likes, shares, views and new followers (engagement). The more engagement a social media user gets, the greater the craving for more of it.

The craving can become as addictive as a drug, explaining why some personalities keep posting provocative content online. Critics of social media say online platforms encourage bad behaviour because they allow users to post anything with no fear of consequences.

Former Facebook executive Sean Parker told Axios in 2017 that social media platforms are designed to encourage content creation through likes and comments. Whenever you post something and get a reaction from the audience, you are likely to post more of such content to get much more likes and comments.

“It [social media] probably interferes with productivity in weird ways. God only knows what it's doing to our children's brains,” Parker is quoted saying.

Indeed, people are busy producing content for TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and X at the expense of their jobs and relationships. Success on social media is measured by the number of one’s followers. The more likes and comments you generate, the more followers you get. The hunger for followers, likes and comments inevitably interferes with productivity.

Humans are attracted to sensational content. What better way to rack up the number of followers than to post something lewd? Sensationalism is guaranteed to get people clicking on the content, sharing it with friends and posting comments.

Accumulating a large number of followers can be profitable. Social media influencers are often contracted by advertisers to push various products to their followers. The advertisers hope that the publicity from these social media influencers will increase the sales of those products.

Research carried out on Instagram has found that accounts with high levels of body exposure achieve higher prices and advertising revenues compared to accounts with less nudity, regardless of gender.

According to research results published in 2023, women were found to “provide more nude content and post more branded pictures” compared to men. In the long term, female accounts generate more advertising revenue compared to accounts run by males.


Prof Sophia Gaenssle, author of the study, points out that there is “considerable demand for sexualised content”. The findings, however, raise critical questions about body images and perception of beauty.

“From a social point of view, these results are interesting because of their potential reflection of societal values and norms in social media and beyond. It reflects body image and sexuality in modern media,” she says.

While it is easy for anyone to create content and put it online for all to see, she says, it is very difficult to gain the public’s attention. Lewdness is thus a common way of standing out and drawing attention to oneself. The belief that “sex sells” is also practised in traditional forms of media, such as television, radio, newspapers and billboards.

Cyber security experts have on numerous occasions warned about the risks of sharing nude content even when it’s meant for a lover to see. Once the content is online, it is impossible to control how it is shared or used.

This can lead to sextortion (threats of publishing the content), bullying and loss of reputation. The Internet never forgets and such images will remain accessible for a very long time.

If you love sharing leaked videos, you may be as guilty as the person who leaked that content because you are very likely worsening the agony of the victim. Leaking out private videos may result in criminal charges, too. 

“Making videos of others while naked, with or without their approval, is a breach of the Films and Stage Plays Act Cap 222," Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of the Music Copyright Society, has previously stated.

“No film or class of film for public exhibition shall be made without a filming licence."

Wicked World

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