Arab Youth Survey 2023: Social media addiction harms mental health of young users

Dubai: While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has one of the highest levels of social media adoption per capita, the majority of young Arabs say they are struggling to disconnect and that social media addiction social is negatively impacting your mental health. .

These are some of the key findings under the theme ‘My lifestyle’, from ASDA’A BCW’s 15th annual Arab Youth Survey, the most comprehensive study of its kind on the Arab world’s largest demographic group – its most of 200 million youth – conducted by ASDA’A BCW, the leading communications consultancy in MENA.

With internet penetration at 77 percent (higher than the global average of 65 percent), users in MENA have an average of 8.4 social media accounts, each spending more than 3.5 hours on them .

Main consumers

Saudi Arabia is the largest user of YouTube in the world, where 68 percent of users consume more digital videos than on television.

The five countries with the largest reach for TikTok are in MENA (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Iraq), while Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Egypt are among the 15 largest national markets for SnapChat.

With such significant use of social media, it is no surprise that in this year’s survey, almost three-quarters (74 percent) of young Arabs said they have difficulty disconnecting from social media. Additionally, around two-thirds (61 percent) agreed that social media addiction negatively affects their mental health.

The survey findings were presented at a special event organized by blinx, the new digital media hub focused on young people in the Middle East, to mark World Mental Health Day, which falls on October 10.

Sunil John, President of MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, and Nakhle Elhage, General Manager of blinx, discussed the findings and their impact on the changing media and digital landscape of the Arab world.

Seeking fame as influencers

When asked which social channels are most important to them, 18% of respondents said Facebook, followed by Instagram (17%), WhatsApp (16%), YouTube (13%), TikTok (12%), SnapChat (eleven%). , X/Twitter (8%) and LinkedIn (4%).

But the majority of young Arabs (92%) also said big tech companies like Meta, Apple, Netflix and Google have “too much power”, a sentiment shared by young people in all three regions covered: Arab Cooperation Council says Gulf (GCC). North Africa and the Levant. Similarly, an overwhelming majority (92%) said social media companies must do more to stop misinformation on their sites.

Despite their struggle to disconnect, many young Arabs are carried away by the prospect of fame through social media, reflecting their choices of “soft careers” rather than pursuing challenging jobs in technology, medicine or engineering.

When asked in which field they would like to achieve fame, the highest percentage (13%) of young Arabs said they would prefer to be famous as “social media influencers.” Respondents had the option to name multiple fields from more than 30 options, including careers in industry, education, business, healthcare, tourism and others.

Being known as chefs, food critics or food bloggers was equally popular (12%), while 11% said they would like to be known for their humanitarian work or their contribution to technology. Up to 10% of young Arabs said they would like to be famous in the fashion sector as designers or models. Careers in education and sports appeal to 9% each, while only 8% said they would prefer to be famous in business as an entrepreneur/CEO.

Regional disparities

However, there are regional disparities: in the GCC, technology, engineering and culinary arts were named as the top three options (10% each), while 17% of young people in North African nations seek fame as influencers on social networks, followed by 15%. Percent mention charity work and 12% want to explore the culinary arts. In the Levantine nations, the main preference is for technology and culinary arts (13% each), followed by 12% who want to achieve fame as influencers.

Although social media dominates the lives of young Arabs, when asked what defines their lifestyle, more than half (58%) said “going out to eat,” followed by 57% who said “going out with friends.” . 42% mentioned using fashion brands, while more than a third (36%) said “holidays in new destinations.” Nearly a third (31%) said “going to the movies” reflects their lifestyle, and almost the same number (30%) said “driving a sports car.”

Main news source

Nearly two-thirds (61%) of respondents said they get their news through social media, but this is a significant drop from 2019, when almost 80% of young Arabs surveyed said they get their news through of social channels. Television, however, remains the second preferred news source, mentioned by almost half of young Arabs (45%).

One noticeable trend is the rise of online portals as a source of news for young Arabs. In 2019, more than a third (38%) cited online portals as their main source of news; this has increased to 42% in 2023, also marking a 10% increase over 2022. Print newspapers continue to see a steady decline, cited by less than one in 10 percent (9%).

However, television is the most trusted source of news for young Arabs: mentioned by 89%, followed by online news portals (79%) and print newspapers (76%). Social media influencers are not as trusted: 42% say they are “not trustworthy.”

Announcing the findings, Sunil John said: “The lifestyles of the region’s young people are increasingly defined by their addiction to social media, and even when they agree that they find it difficult to disconnect, many prefer to seek fame by choosing to be people influencers on social media.

“The overt dependence on social media appears to have left many young people living in a bubble, unaware of socio-economic realities. With the highest levels of youth unemployment in the world, it is important for the MENA region to channel the energies of these young men and women into vocational training and quality education for the jobs of the future.”

John added that the concern expressed by young Arabs about the impact of social media on mental health is especially significant. “A young, digitally savvy population is an asset to any nation, but top priority must be given to their mental wellbeing, encouraging them to live fuller social lives in the real world.”

Consumption habits

Meanwhile, Nakhle Elhage said: “In light of the intriguing revelations from the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, blinx, with its special focus on Generation Z and Millennials across the Middle East, finds these insights particularly insightful.” .

“Our purpose is to inspire young people through honest, genuine and spectacular storytelling while harnessing the collective power of resources, technology and experience, so that storytelling always feels fresh, exciting, believable, believable, trustworthy and relevant to today’s youth. As we learn more about the media consumption habits and preferences of young Arabs from the recent survey results, we, at blinx, are committed to keeping it real and genuine, away from fake news, misinformation and disinformation. . Whenever he addresses sensitive topics, blinx does so without exaggeration, distortion or sensationalism,” Elhage explained.

ASDA’A BCW commissioned SixthFactor Consulting, a leading research firm, to conduct the 15th edition of the Arab Youth Survey. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 3,600 Arab citizens aged 18 to 24 in 53 cities across 18 Arab states, the largest sample in the history of the survey. Interviews were conducted in person rather than online to maximize accuracy and reflect as closely as possible the nuances of opinion among young Arabs across the region.

The overarching theme of the 2023 ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey is “Living a New Reality”. Previously, conclusions were presented on five themes: “My global citizenship”, “My politics”, “My livelihood”, “My identity” and “My aspirations”. All published results are freely available with expert commentary on the Arab Youth Survey website.

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