Majority of Arab youth say social media addiction is leading to decline in mental well-being: 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey

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DUBAI, UAE, Oct. 10, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — While the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has 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.

Three-quarters of Arab youth say they struggle to disconnect from social media
Three-quarters of Arab youth say they struggle to disconnect from social media

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

This year’s survey reveals that nearly three-fourths (74%) of young Arabs are struggling to disconnect from social media. Additionally, about two-thirds (61%) agreed that social media addiction negatively impacts their mental health. 

The findings of the survey were launched at a special event organised by blinx, the new digital media hub focused on youth in the Middle East, to mark the World Mental Health Day. Sunil John, President, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW, and Nakhle Elhage, General Manager of blinx, discussed the findings.

Asked which social channels are most important to them, 18% said of the respondents said Facebook, followed by Instagram (17%), WhatsApp (16%), YouTube (13%), TikTok (12%), SnapChat (11%), X/Twitter (8%) and LinkedIn (4%).

But most Arab youth (92%) also said big tech companies such as Meta, Apple, Netflix and Google have ‘too much power’. Similarly, an overwhelming majority (92%) 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 pursue challenging jobs in technology, medicine or engineering.

Asked which field they would want to achieve fame, the highest percentage (13%) 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%) while 11% each said they would like to be known for their humanitarian work or for their contribution to technology.

Social media as top source of news

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

Television is the most trusted source of news for young Arabs – named by 89% followed by online news portals (79%) and print dailies (76%). Social media influencers are not as trusted with 42% saying they are ‘not trustworthy’.

Announcing the findings, Sunil John, said: “The overt dependence on social media appears to have left many young people living in a bubble, unaware of the socioeconomic 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.”

“In the face of intriguing revelations by the ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, blinx, with its focus on Gen Z and Millennials across the Middle East, finds these insights particularly enlightening,” said Nakhle Elhage. “As we learn more about Arab youth media consumption habits and preferences from the recent survey findings, we, at blinx, are committed to keeping it real and genuine, away from fake news, misinformation, and disinformation.”

ASDA’A BCW commissioned SixthFactor Consulting, a leading research company, 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 survey’s history. All the published findings are freely available with expert commentaries at arabyouthsurvey.com

Young Arabs would rather be a famous social media influencer, chef or charity worker
Young Arabs would rather be a famous social media influencer, chef or charity worker