Arab youths addicted to social media face mental wellbeing backlash

01 November 2023 3 min. read

A new report has found that the majority of Arab youth are well aware of the fact that their social media addiction is leading to decline in their mental wellbeing.

The 15th annual Arab Youth Survey from SixthFactor Consulting, commissioned by ASDA’A BCW, delves into the lifestyle choices of Gen Z and Millennials across the Middle East.

One of the key conclusions of the study, and arguably most concerning, is the high rate of addictiveness when it comes to social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, YouTube or LinkedIn. For some, addiction comes with a serious price tag.

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

The survey uncovered that a staggering 74% of young Arabs struggle to break away from using social media too much. Of this group of youths, approximately 61% acknowledged that their mental health suffers due to this addiction.

When questioned about their preferred social media channels, 18% of respondents named Facebook as their top choice, followed by Instagram (17%), WhatsApp (16%), YouTube (13%), TikTok (12%), SnapChat (11%), Twitter or X (8%), and LinkedIn (4%).

Exacerbating the issue, youth in the Middle East and North Africa boast one of the highest per capita rates of social media adoption, compared to other regions in the world.

TV versus Social Media

Social media currently is the primary source of news for nearly two-thirds (61%) of respondents, although this represents a notable decline from 2019 when almost 80% of young Arabs reported social media as their primary news source. Television remains the second most favoured source of news, with almost half of young Arabs (45%) relying on the channel.

Notably, TV is the most trusted source of news for young Arabs, with 89% placing their trust in it, followed by online news portals (79%). In contrast, social media channels are considered less trustworthy, with 42% of respondents deeming social media (and influencers) unreliable.

“The overt dependence on social media appears to have left many young people living in a bubble, unaware of the socioeconomic realities,” said Sunil John, President and Founder of ASDA’A BCW.

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

Everyone an influencer?

Paradoxically, even as young Arabs struggle to disconnect from social media, many are enticed by the allure of social media fame, opting for ‘soft career’ choices over demanding professions in fields like technology, medicine, or engineering.

When asked where they would like to achieve fame, the highest percentage (13%) aspired to become ‘social media influencers’. Respondents could choose from a list of over 30 fields, including careers in industry, education, business, healthcare and tourism. Other popular options included aspiring to be chefs, food critics or food bloggers (12%).

“With the highest levels of youth unemployment in the world, it is important for the MENA region to channel the energies of young men and women into vocational training and quality education for the jobs of the future,” John said.