x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

What are the benefits and pitfalls of using social media, especially here in the UAE?

Each month, Weekend will pose a different question to be debated on by a series of female Emirati columnists. This week, we ask Ayesha Al Khoori:

What are the benefits and pitfalls of using social media, especially here in the UAE?

Social media networks have become a big part of almost everyone’s life. People’s presence is now seen and felt online, which could be both good and bad.

For journalists, social media is a great tool. For one, we are able to share our articles with many people via Twitter and Facebook. We are also able to reach out to others on such sites, including prominent sheikhs. Worldwide, people are able to converse and discuss issues as if they are sitting right next to each other.

When I was training as a news reporter, I wouldn’t have a long time to write my article, and all journalists know how stressful it is to chase a deadline. I would always be pressed for time and finding sources is never easy. Twitter made it a little easier. I would ask a few people some questions, gather enough information and immediately have my story ready.

Looking through social media networks also enables me to spot a good story. Many stories that I have written have been inspired from pictures I have seen on Instagram, and the people are easily accessible thanks to chat applications.

Conservative people, such as many of the Emirati families here, might feel such websites intrude into their lives. Parents complain that their children are not socialising as much because their eyes are “glued” to their phones. Even if they are physically present, people tend to look at their phones more often than the people surrounding them.

Many people also tend to post their every move online. While covering the criminal court in Abu Dhabi, I noticed a trend of social media relationships that can lead to criminal behaviour. One person ends up being either blackmailed or stalked. Such relationships are unacceptable.

Recently, people on Twitter have been taking certain issues to a different, and more personal, level. You are judged by who you follow, what you tweet and, of course, retweet. Initially, Twitter might be used as a platform to convey your thoughts, maybe share a few pictures. But it can transition into becoming a matchmaking network for forming forbidden relationships (in Islam). And often Twitter is used simply as a medium to insult and attack people.

This year, my entries and blog posts have inspired many attacks, and now I pay careful attention to what I tweet. People seem to want to judge others without finding a civilised way to express themselves.

In the end, Twitter, Facebook and Instragram are mere networks that are supposed to add enjoyment to our lives and should take up only a tiny percentage of our time and energy. We shouldn’t be taking them too seriously, especially when it comes to negative and insulting comments that appear daily on our feeds.

Ayesha Al Khoori is a trainee journalist at The National

Read more: http://www.thenational.ae/lifestyle/emirati-life-adding-the-love-factor-to-your-food-makes-all-the-difference#ixzz2f3nt6MB7

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