Social Media in the Middle East
According to GlobalWebIndex survey, the penetration of twitter in the Middle East is very high. The survey found out that out of three countries with the highest rates of twitter usage, two were from the Middle East. More than half of the respondents surveyed from Saudi Arabia were active Twitter users, which put the Middle Eastern Country in the first place worldwide. At third position in the ranking was The United Arab Emirates, which had 34% of internet users actively utilizing the social network (Merc, 2013). Most governments are characterized by tyranny and autocracy in the Middle East. They have managed to put a stranglehold on the mainstream media and therefore information disbursed through this channel is usually doctored to pacify the masses. However, twitter and the social media in general have given the middle easterners an opportunity to communicate their real feelings and experiences since the web provided an abstraction from the violence of the real world when sending messages (Nguyen, 2013). The resulting effect of the widespread usage of twitter in the Middle East can be felt to this day. This paper examines the effects on the government, companies, and households.
Effects on the Government
It is without doubt that governments have been overthrown in the Middle East with social media, especially twitter being at the center stage of the information flow. Political repression and economic mismanagement by the government of Tunisia led to online protests fueled on twitter (Lister, 2013). Twitter was influential in mobilizing the online protests into street protests that eventually led to the removal of the Ben Ali government of the masses by the government of Tunisia. The micro blogging website was again to be influential in the subsequent protests in the region including Egypt, Libya, and Syria. Governments had to turn to social media, especially twitter and facebook in order to collect intelligence on the flow of information. The regular mainstream media that the government had for long put under control was no-longer influential in the pacifying the masses. Revolutions and protests were started online with the use of twitter.
Effects on Companies
In Saudi Arabia, as indicated by the statistics produced by the GlobalWebIndex, more than half of the population uses twitter regularly. More people turn to other social media websites like facebook, YouTube, and Google plus for entertainment, communication, and light relief (“A virtual revolution”, 2014). A significant chunk of the United Arab Emirates population also accesses the Social Media, just like Egypt, Jordan, and Bahrain. This media helps the people discuss issues and access information that would otherwise be close to impossible to access in the mainstream media. As a result, companies have had to shift bigger parts of their marketing budgets to social media, as opposed to mainstream media that was favored before. More companies also mine for information about potential employees on the social media, because this is where most young people express their real selves, talents, and character.
This has also led to the proliferation of online entertainment companies like UTURN Entertainment of Saudi Arabia. In an article on the Economist.com (2013), a survey found that Saudis watch seven videos per day averagely, on YouTube. This means that a product advert would be viewed by more people through social media than the mainstream media in Saudi Arabia. This means that companies have had to undergo a radical shift in the way they make policies of sales, marketing, and logistics. The influence the usage of twitter has had on the information flow in the Middle East has tremendously influenced decision making in most companies in the region.
Effects on House Holds
While social media has provided Saudi Families with entertainment and uninterrupted information flow, it has also been a source of suffering to many families. Terrorist groups in the Middle East have used twitter to recruit members (Salma & Labott, 2013). Walsh (2014) in an article on the CNN website states that recruiters identify youth from communities across the region. They then start communicating with the youth through social media, especially twitter. The Terrorists also conduct twitter campaigns to pass across their messages, which are crafted in a way as to make their activities endearing to both the young and old, male and female. When successful, families have been torn apart by losing members to this organization. This is in light of the fact that the penetration rate of twitter in the region is very high, and therefore the chances of getting recruits is higher when it is used.
In the Egyptian revolution, households were also affected. Blogger and Activist Ahmed Douma was arrested following the Egyptian government spying on his online activities in blogs and twitter (Dalsh 2013). The government agents would break into homesteads and arrest people in the presence of their families before torturing and incarcerating them. It is on record that 300 girls were arrested and jailed by the government after participating in pro Morsi protests (Guerin, 2013). Information about the protests had spread through many methods including twitter. These were young girls who were probably spied on and snatched from their families.
While some good events and activities can be attributed to the penetration of twitter among middle easterners, it has also been a source of many tribulations. Middle easterners however continue to embrace social media and much that comes with it like the rest of the world.
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