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Most Arab youth say social media addiction is harming their mental health

Over 90% of Arab youth say big tech firms are too powerful and don't fight fake news enough.

Most Arab youth say social media addiction is harming their mental health
[Source photo: Anvita Gupta/Fast Company Middle East]

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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is one of the most connected regions in the world, with 77% internet penetration, higher than the global average of 65%. Users in MENA have an average of 8.4 social media accounts, each spending over 3.5 hours on them daily.

So, it is no surprise that social media has become an integral part of the lives of young people in MENA. According to the 15th annual ASDA’A BCW Arab Youth Survey, 74% of young Arabs struggle to disconnect from social media, and 61% agree that social media addiction negatively impacts mental health.

The most popular social media platforms in MENA are Facebook (18%), followed by Instagram (17%), WhatsApp (16%), YouTube (13%), TikTok (12%).

Social media remains the top news source for young Arabs despite its popularity declining from 80% in 2019 to 61% in 2023. Online portals are still gaining popularity, with 42% of young Arabs citing them as their primary news source.

Over 90% of Arab youth also believe that big tech companies like Meta, Apple, Netflix, and Google have too much power. They say that social media companies need to do more to stop the spread of disinformation on their platforms.

Despite the negative impacts of social media, many young Arabs are swayed by the prospect of fame via social media rather than pursuing challenging jobs in technology, medicine, or engineering. 

A recent survey found that 13% of Arab youth would rather be famous as social media influencers, followed by chefs, food critics, food bloggers (12%), humanitarian workers (11%), and working in the fashion sector (10%).

“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, MENA, BCW and Founder of ASDA’A BCW.

“A digital-savvy youth population is an asset for any nation, but their mental well-being must be given top priority by encouraging them to live a fuller social life in the real world.”

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