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Social Media Addiction Leading to Decline in Mental Health

Arab Youth Survey Reveals in 15th Year Edition

By Inc.Arabia Staff
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While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have among the highest levels of per capita adoption of social media networks globally, a majority of Arab youth say they are struggling to disconnect, and that social media addiction is negatively impacting their mental health.

These are some of the key findings under the theme, ‘My Lifestyle,’ of the Arab Youth Survey ASDA’A BCW, MENA’s leading communications consultancy, released in Dubai on World Mental Health Day on Tuesday.

The 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey 2023 was conducted among young people across 53 cities in 18 states in the Middle East and North Africa.

With 77% internet penetration - higher than the global average of 65% - users in MENA have an average 8.4 social media accounts, each spending over 3.5 hours on them. 

Saudi Arabia is the biggest user of YouTube worldwide, where 68% of the users consume more video digitally than on TV.

The top 5 countries by reach for TikTok are in the MENA (UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and Iraq) while KSA, Iraq, and Egypt are among the Top 15 largest national markets for Snapchat.

With such significant social media usage, it is not surprising that in this year's survey, nearly three-fourths (74%) of young Arabs said they are struggling to disconnect from social media. Additionally, about two-thirds (61%) agreed that social media addiction negatively impacts their mental health.

The survey covered five of the Gulf Cooperation Council states (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), North Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia), and the Levant (Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestinian Territories, Syria, and Yemen, with South Sudan added new this year).

Most Arab youth (92 percent) also said big tech companies such as Meta, Apple, Netflix, and Google have ‘too much power’ -- a sentiment shared by young people in all three regions covered -- the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, North Africa, and the Levant.

Similarly, an overwhelming majority (92 percent) said social media companies need to do more to stop disinformation on their sites.

Despite their struggle to disconnect, many young Arabs are swayed by the prospect of fame via social media, reflecting their ‘soft career’ choices rather than pursuing challenging jobs in technology, medicine, or engineering.

Asked which field they would want to achieve fame, the highest percentage (13 percent) of Arab youth said they would rather be famous as ‘a social media influencer.’ The respondents had the option of naming multiple fields from over 30 options including careers in industry, education, business, healthcare, tourism, and others.

To be known as chefs, food critics, or food bloggers was equally popular (12 percent) while 11 percent each said they would like to be known for their humanitarian work or for their contribution to technology.

Ten percent of young Arabs said they would like to be famous in the fashion sector as designers or models.

Photo Credit: Camilo Jimenez/Unsplash  
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