How Social Media Revolutionized Arab Youth
By: Yaseen Rashed/Arab America Contributing Writer
Social media has had an increasingly influential role among Arab youth, as in many cases, it’s seen as an outlet. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are growing household names as the public turns to social media to replace their news source with more life-like intel.
This shift in culture has also had a ripple effect on daily life activities as increasingly, the smartphone becomes more necessary and valuable. Delivery apps, dating apps, and even service apps have become apart of the youth culture in the Arab world; however, with all these changes occurring, how can we understand the real impact of social media?
Social media has played an instrumental role during the Arab spring. Some have even nicknamed the Arab Spring as the “Facebook revolution” as coordination and mobilization were all communicated through the app.
Before the revolutions took place, social media sites were monitored closely and banned in some countries as it’s seen as western “rhetoric” and threatened positions of power. There was the same sites youths took to complain about the lack of city resources and the quality of life. Concerned for their futures, Arab youth seemed to find a community together online and thus sparked an interest in a social revolution. Demonstrations lead in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya were all organized online and although some were met with violence, everything was recorded and put out to the world to watch.
The Arab Spring was one of the first conflicts in the region where everyone had access to taking pictures and documenting the atrocities of the regime for the world to see. Had it not been for this first-hand journalistic experience, perhaps these revolutions would’ve never blown up and would’ve never attracted the same caliber of international attention.
Social media has also given birth to this new concept of pushing the borders on social norms and behavior. It created a community within the Arab world and provided them with a platform to express themselves. This alone has opened so many doors for creatives like artists or musicians to change the dynamic between expression and repression. With content easily going viral on these multifaceted cites, it allows the rest of the Arab youth to be exposed to something unique and to see a different experience within their homelands.
This broke away a sheltering aspect found in many Arab households and brought forth many topics that are hard to talk about. Topics like maltreatment of cleaning personals have become very prominent through the documentation and virus-like spread of videos and pictures. This harassment documentation has been able to paint these foreign service workers in a sympathetic light, effectively rallying up the public to change the culture and laws to better protect these expats. With public service, commercials to hashtags on twitter to join the conversation, many saw this as a success in the quality of life of these foreign aid workers.
Another prominent aspect of social media is its responsibility in the rise in autonomy for women in the Arab World. It is no secret that in many repressive Arab countries, women are treated as second class citizens, with their presence in society is limited. However, social media has given birth to this new animosity that previously did not exist. Social Media allowed them to adopt a fake name or even a fake persona to be able to express whatever women want freely. With this capability, many women have become a part of a region-wide reform for women’s rights. It’s allowed them to document the hardships that come with being a woman in the Arab world and the harassment they’ve endured.
Many have even taken to vlogging about desperate situations, like the royal families of both (Saudi and the UAE) and even running away to avoid the persecution that comes with being feminist in modern society. Although controversial, it brought the topic of women’s rights to dinner tables to allow for a discussion in many households that would’ve never happened. In doing so, social media has brought serious changes to women’s rights as it was one of the driving forces to pressure the Saudi government in allowing women to drive. From music videos to live-action journalism, there is no doubt that social media has revolutionized the Arab world and will forever have an impact on Arab culture, as it continues to push boundaries and create dialogue.
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