Social Media in UAE Informs, But Does not Connect


The main purpose of social media platforms is to connect people and to easily allow them to communicate with one another. Well, not in the UAE. A new research has found that both Emiratis and expatriates in the country rely mainly on social media to stay informed on the latest regional and international news.

The study, which was presented at this year’s Gulf Research Meeting, at the Gulf Research Centre Cambridge, has examined the internet habits of the United Arab Emirates diverse population. What it discovered was that the majority of the people, who live on the country, use social media as their key source of news. According to the paper, nearly 60% of them visited social media websites whenever they wanted to read the latest news. Less than 20% preferred to go to UAE-based news sites, whereas 18% stayed informed by visiting international news websites.

However, that was not the most surprising finding made by the researchers. According to the study, internet habits of Emiratis were similar to those of expatriates. Still, not with all expats. The paper explains that the local population and long-term expatriates in the UAE used the web in a very similar way. No matter of their nationality, just like Emiratis, long-term expats used social media platforms as their main news source. Short-term expatriates, on the other hand, were found to have different habits depending on their nationality.

Most popular news source in the United Arab Emirates (for both Emiratis and expatriates):

  • Social media (57%)
  • International news websites (18%)
  • UAE-based news websites (18%)
  • Instant Messaging (7%)

Nevertheless, long-term expats and Emiratis exhibited differences in other areas. For instance, Emiratis were found to use mobile internet more frequently than expatriates. However, expats used it more than the local residents for communication with their family and friends. The study also discovered that their top choice of platform for connecting with their nears and dears was instant messaging services (81). UAE expatriates showed less interest in communicating via social media (13%) and void-over IP services (VoIP), like Skype (5%). In contrast, Emiratis were slightly more open towards video and photo sharing web services.

According to the authors of the paper, these findings show that modern technology, like smartphones and tablets, is now playing a huge role in people’s everyday lives. As a result, researchers state that this tendency is affecting the more traditional face-to-face communication in the country and even replacing it with online interactions. Yet, the study also shows that Emiratis and expats are not so different when it comes to their internet habits.


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