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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

UAE residents spend 5 hours a day on social media, study shows

YouGov survey findings leads one doctor to warn that too much exposure to social media can harm one's mental health.

ABU DHABI // Residents are spending substantial portions of their day using social media, a UAE survey shows, prompting at least one expert to warn about the perils of spending too much time online.

According to a study released by research firm YouGov on Monday, residents are spending about five hours a day, on average, using social media.

Time spent varied depending on age group, with those between the ages of 18 and 35 claiming to spend between two and six hours a day on various platforms.

Older users, aged 36 to 55, said they spent between 30 minutes and two hours a day online.

Most respondents said they used Facebook most regularly, with four out of five claiming to use it at least several times a week, while 58 per cent said they accessed YouTube and 26 per cent used LinkedIn at a similar frequency.

Forty per cent of Facebook users said they shared material on the website on a daily basis, with personal photos making up 58 per cent of that content, followed by status updates, personal opinions, videos and news.

Thirty four per cent of social media users said they shared every day on Snapchat, followed by Twitter (24 per cent) and YouTube (21 per cent).

With some residents claiming to spend as much as six hours a day using social media, one psychology expert said the findings were cause for concern.

Dr Samineh Shaheem, professor of organisational psychology and leadership at Hult International Business School in Dubai, said sharing and viewing social media content could potentially have detrimental effects on mental health.

“One of the biggest issues associated with prolonged internet usage, especially social media, is what we refer to as obsessive comparison disorder,” she said.

Users have a tendency to share primarily the most positive aspects of their lives, she said, rather than “the real aspects of their lives”.

“When you spend five hours being exposed to a very artificial, contrived and positive aspect of people’s lives, you start looking at your own real life in a negative manner,” she said.

Spending long hours online in such a situation can result in social withdrawal, depression, anxiety, pessimism, self-esteem issues and the creation of “negative perceptions of ourselves”, Dr Shaheem said.

Research indicates that those who spend most of their time online viewing other people’s profiles are the most vulnerable, she said.

People should be conscious of the amount of time they spend on social media and the type of content they are exposing themselves to so they can harness its benefits, Dr Shaheem said.

“There is so much to gain, and so much good, relevant, content on the internet. Just don’t become enslaved to it,” she said.

YouGov consumer research director Nehal Hassan Jibouri said the survey’s findings illustrate the integral role social media plays in the lives of UAE residents.

“It serves two main desires,” he said. “It fulfils, but also created, a need to share precious moments with others and has also become a means to gain, gather and exchange information.”

The survey sampled 5,497 respondents in the UAE between April 1 and May 17 this year.

esamoglou@thenational.ae

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