Islamic countries are known to be extremely traditionalists and rely solemnly on religion to lead and guide their people (i.e. women are secluded, men lead and hold all the power, teenagers and young adults are not allowed to publicly show any kind of “bad behaviors”, etc.). Since social media was created, the public hardly thought that it will play a huge role in some of the most Islamic countries. For example, social medias like Facebook and Twitter were crucial in disseminating information during the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt. Most people (mainly millennia), who don’t get their news from traditional media (TV and newspapers) relied on social media to follow the revolution. However, it was a two way street, Tunisians and Egyptians also used social media to share with the world what was going on in their countries and with their governments. From there the use of social media quickly spread throughout the other islamic countries, i.e. Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Let’s take the example of Saudi Arabia and how social media is having an impact on its population. If there is a country who rely heavily on religion to govern its population, it is Saudi Arabia, the home of Mecca, the Holy City. The media systems are controlled by the government and most channels broadcast government propaganda and religious sermon. Thus, how do younger people keep in touch with the world? Thru social media! One Saudi Arabia entertainment company, UTURN Entertainment offers multiple YouTube videos of a variety of shows (for example shows about relationship, which will most certainly be taboo on national broadcasting), and has over 300,000 subscribers. Twitter is also highly used in Saudi Arabia, 60% of the population uses Twitter and the country has the world’s highest penetration of the microblog. Some professors even uses Twitter to inform their students new course assignments. For a country who is deeply rooted in traditions and religion how can social media, which represents everything it stands against, play such an important role in communicating and disseminating information?
Seems like social media is breaking all kinds of barrier. It isn’t social media only, but the audience who is using social media to share information. Majority of people using social media in these countries are millennia. The instant messaging and spread of information clearly attract more millennia than the older, traditional crowd. This seems to also be a way for them to put pressure on the government and their information sharing process. But in countries like Syria, it seems like social media is becoming a tool for recruiting. Indeed, Jihadists have been using social media to publish and recruit to their cause. Of course, we all know that social media has both a positive and negative outcome, but that outcome is only established based on who is using it and what they are using it for. Thus, with social media constantly evolving, will it make the part of that world a better place or a worse one for its citizens? At some point, will the governments give in and start using social media to woe their younger crowd and gain back their authority? It will be very interesting to see what role social media will have in those countries media systems and how they disseminate information.
– Ali Diallo