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Arab youth see social media harming mental well-being

The 15th annual Asda’a BCW Arab Youth Survey, centered on the theme ‘My Lifestyle,’ was released on World Mental Health Day. It reveals that the majority of young Arabs, 70%, find it challenging to disconnect from social media, and 60% believe that social media addiction negatively affects their mental health.

Additionally, a substantial 92% of respondents feel that major tech companies have excessive influence and aren’t doing enough to combat fake news.

The survey, conducted through face-to-face interviews with 3,600 Arab citizens aged 18 to 24 across 18 Arab states by SixthFactor Consulting on behalf of Asda’a BCW, emphasizes the impact of social media on Arab youth’s lives.

It notes that many are fixated on social media, with 74% struggling to disconnect. Furthermore, a significant number aspire to gain fame as social media influencers, with 13% selecting this as their preferred path to recognition.

While there are regional variations in career preferences, the pervasive influence of social media is undeniable. This has led to a potential disconnect from real-world socioeconomic realities, especially considering the high youth unemployment rates in the region. Encouraging a more balanced approach to life and prioritizing mental well-being is crucial for these digital-savvy young people.

The survey also highlights concerns about the influence of big tech companies, as 92% of Arab youth feel that these companies need to do more to combat disinformation on their platforms.

Social media remains the primary source of news for 61% of respondents, though this has declined from nearly 80% in 2019, with television (45%) being the second most trusted source. Interestingly, online news portals have seen an uptick in trust as a source of news, reaching 42% in 2023, up from 38% in 2019.

Despite their online presence, television is still the most trusted source of news for Arab youth, with 89% expressing trust in it, followed by online news portals (79%), while social media influencers are viewed skeptically, with 42% considering them untrustworthy.

The survey also provides insights into the dominance of social media in the lives of Arab youth, with 58% defining their lifestyle by “eating out,” followed by 57% who emphasize “hanging out with friends.”

Other key findings include the prevalence of internet usage (77%) in the MENA region, above the global average (65%), and Saudi Arabia leading globally in YouTube usage, with 68% of users consuming more video digitally than on TV. The top five countries by reach for TikTok are in the MENA region, and Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt rank among the top 15 largest national markets for SnapChat.

The primary social media platforms among Arab youth include Facebook (18%), Instagram (17%), WhatsApp (16%), YouTube (13%), TikTok (12%), SnapChat (11%), X (formerly Twitter) (8%), and LinkedIn (4%).

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