Social media in the UAE
Social sciences play an integral role in defining the relationships between people and the society (Shoemaker & Reese, 2013). The advent of the internet technology has led to the use of social media, which in turn has spurred social, economic, and political developments in various societal settings. One such region is the United Arabs Emirates that is gradually transforming into a global tourist destination and a business hub. Based on this perspective, the use of the social media such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, and Twitter among others is on the rise not only among individuals but also among institutions. Its effect in transforming the nature of societal interactions in the region cannot go unnoticed, as it constitutes the central communication system. Social sciences attempt to define and interpret the nature of the relationship between individuals and institutions within a societal setting. Given the increased use and impact of the social media in the UAE, this paper uses sociology as a means of analyzing the social media use in the United Arabs Emirates.
As mentioned in the afore paragraphs, Shoemaker & Reese (2013) consider sociology to be primarily aimed at studying the relationships between humans and the social institutions. The duo further considers sociology to cover a broad scope spanning individual behaviors, social networks, organizations, and social processes among others. The broad perspective of sociology makes it relevant to the study of the social media use in the United Arabs Emirates as it covers salient elements of interactions. Through the sociology, the nature of the social media as a virtual community can be analyzed in terms of the communication openness, conversations, level of connectivity, and participations among others (Alexander, 2014). From a sociological perspective, each of these elements can be analyzed under the auspices of theories such as personal bias and halo effect perspectives. This makes sociology to be the ideal social science for the study context. It would vividly illustrate the relevance of the social media use in the UAE.
One of the key characteristics of the sociology in the study of the social media is personal bias. According to this theory, many people in the course of interaction within the social media encounter certain biases that undermine the impartiality of their decision-making (Zafar, Gummadi, & Mizil, 2016, March). The United Arabs Emirates comprise of people from diverse backgrounds such as the Arabs, Europeans, Asians, and Africans. The diverse nature of this social setting makes it highly susceptible to bias. For instance, while using the social media, certain UAE citizens believe that Islam is the dominant religion, and therefore users from other regions may not be in a position to offer them counsel regarding certain societal issues. Such an instance leads to personal bias, where the superior members exhibit a certain level of bias on the minority groups. The personal biases thus limit the interaction between these groups within the social media. Other instances may include strong beliefs and preference in opinions raised by famous celebrities compared to other ordinary persons.
The second characteristic stems from the halo effect. Under this perspective, the overall impression of a person towards an individual has a direct impact on how they think or feel about them (Peters et al., 2015). This implies that within the virtual community, people evaluate each other based on what they think and feel about them. A common illustration is that native citizens of the United Arabs Emirates are often considered wealthy in the social media. This perception is attributed to the wealth acquired from the huge oil deposits in the region. The halo effect makes these people to be treated with respect and admiration in the course of social media interactions.
Considering the above observation, certain issues are eminent in the social media use in the United Arabs Emirates. Despite its ability to bring together different people, certain issues limit its level of social impact. The issues sweep across positive and negative perspectives. Some of the issues include improved interpersonal communications; appreciation of diverse culture within the UAE; and increased social profiling of certain people within the Emirates. Despite the ability of the above issues to conjure proper relationship within the social setting, they have led to prejudice among the UAE population with certain groups being profiled based on their religions, wealth, and racial origin (Alexander, 2014).
From the perspective of a wider society, the use of the social media can be seen as a unifying factor of diverse groups of people. The social medias such as Facebook, Whatsapp, Twitter, and Instagram are independently accessed by all individuals. This increases their ability to unify people from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. It also improves the nature of communication between the people. Shoemaker & Reese (2013) in their research noted that the social media enables people to form a virtual community, which formulates its own means of communications and interactions. The final issue is the division of the population members based on social class and religion. The distinct social classes and religion make the people incline preferences towards a given direction. The process is discriminative in nature, limiting the quality of interaction between the communities.
The analysis of the social media use in UAE reveals a gap in the nature of individual interactions. People and groups tend to exhibit bias and discrimination towards one another. Sociology as a social science points out at the personal bias and the halo effect, which tend to limit the quality of interaction among the population. A major recommendation towards the solution of this problem is to encourage communication between diverse groups (Peters et al., 2015). Social leaders should promote interaction between the distinct cultures, classes, and religions. Activities encouraging diversity on the social media should be increased to enable these groups to appreciate the role of each other in the social setting.
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Peters, K., Chen, Y., Kaplan, A. M., Ognibeni, B., & Pauwels, K. (2013). Social media metrics—A framework and guidelines for managing social media. Journal of interactive marketing, 27(4), 281-298. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S109499681300042X
Shoemaker, P. J., & Reese, S. D. (2013). Mediating the message in the 21st century: A media sociology perspective. Routledge. https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=KSTfAQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=sociology+&ots=6ogQKwqN7g&sig=cp-XaXHD9rCb8fDBbu5qSeQDXeA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=sociology&f=false
Zafar, M. B., Gummadi, K. P., & Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, C. (2016, March). Message Impartiality in Social Media Discussions. In ICWSM (pp. 466-475). https://people.mpi-sws.org/~mzafar/papers/impartiality.pdf