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A sword with two edges, by Hashtag’s Lamea Albaik

Hashtag’s Lamea Albaik offers a 22-year-old’s take on social media in Saudi Arabia.

As a 22-year-old living in Saudi, I and those around me (Saudi youth) use social media in a different way compared with previous generations. While everyone knows that attention spans are continuously shrinking, one generation after the other, there is much more change happening and it’s taking place fast. Let’s start by asking ourselves: What is the most popular social media platform among the Saudi youth?

As a member of the infamous Gen Z, and having spent my whole time on earth in Saudi Arabia, I would split the Most Popular Social Media Platform award between two platforms: Tiktok and Instagram. I can already hear people saying, “What about Snapchat?” or “Saudis love Twitter.” But let me remind you that social media consumption is continuously changing, especially among the younger generation. Take, for example, content creators that actually create most of the content on any platform; they are all focusing on Tiktok. As a new, young content creator, it only makes sense that you focus on Tiktok as it gives you the best chance of growing your platform organically, unlike the other platforms that have been in the market for longer. The same thing goes for young entrepreneurs who neither have large media budgets to promote their pages and content nor large production budgets to create professional content. And then you have Instagram, where people share their daily updates through stories and chat with friends. The addition of Reels started attracting young content creators as well.

It is the go-to place for news amongst Gen Z

When I look at my close circle around my age, I can say that nine out of 10 young Saudis get their news updates from social media. I personally don’t know anyone my age who reads newspapers or watches the news channels on television every morning the same way our parents did. We live in an attention market, where traditional types of content that you can find on television aren’t catchy enough and take too long to get to the point. This is why short video content gets the most engagement, regardless of the platform, and will likely continue to grow in popularity. Add to that: young content creators are part of Gen Z and understand how people their age think, which gives them an advantage when it comes to content creation that traditional content channels don’t possess. When you get the personal touch of being able to see your friends’ news and regular updates, then there is no going back to television when it comes to news consumption for any
young Saudi.

Millennials witnessed the start of social media when it was still a choice whether to be present on social media or not. But today, it is rare to find any Gen Z-er in Saudi who doesn’t use at least one or two social media platforms, regardless of whether they use them to create content or just to stay in touch with their friends.

Social media has become a big part of our daily routines, from relying on it to communicate with your friends to getting entertained or staying aware of what is happening locally and globally in real-time. However, this constant stream of endless information can be overwhelming at times, as you can easily spend hours using your phone before even realising. There is also that invisible pressure to always appear happy and show only the best parts of your life. Add to that all the negative content that you see online, and you end up with a sword with two edges.

It is easy to get sucked into the social media world, to care too much about how many likes your posts get, start comparing yourself to others or feel bad about that rude comment you got from a stranger online. It is extremely important to switch off from time to time and to get help whenever needed. You need to be aware of how the content you consume makes you feel and find a healthy balance.