Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 June 2019

Why social media use spikes during Ramadan

From connecting to family to pre-iftar downtime: time on Facebook shoots up by 58 million hours during the holy month

People in the Middle East are spending close to 58 million more hours on Facebook and watching more Youtube videos than at any other time of the year, making Ramadan not only the most important month for Muslims, but the biggest moment of the year for advertisers. AP 
People in the Middle East are spending close to 58 million more hours on Facebook and watching more Youtube videos than at any other time of the year, making Ramadan not only the most important month for Muslims, but the biggest moment of the year for advertisers. AP 

Ramadan is vastly different in this age of technology. Shorter working hours combined with more holidays have led people to spend more time on their mobile and social media during the holy month in the Middle East.

People are using social media in the holy month to stay in touch with loved ones, allowing families to feel connected even when not physically together.

Haitham el-Ghoneim, a Jordanian resident in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, told AP he uses Facebook to connect with friends during Ramadan, sharing traditional greetings for the holy month and checking on his family in Jordan.

Despite this, he does not think the time others spend online, on games, scrolling and ads is constructive. "It's not being spent in a useful way. It's mostly fake news, or jokes and things that have no benefit," he said.

Who does time online benefit?

Although Ramadan is a time of discipline, patience and self-assessment, time spent on social media is at peak levels during the month.

With a five per cent increase in Facebook use, people in the Middle East spend close to 58 million more hours on Facebook during Ramadan and watch more YouTube videos than any other time of the year, making the holy month not only the most important one for Muslims, but also the prime time of the year for advertisers.

In this Monday, May 20, 2019 photo, a woman uses her mobile at the Facebook office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The Muslim holy month of Ramadan, with its long days of fasting and prayer meant to draw worshippers closer to God and away from worldly distractions, is being reshaped by technology. People in the Middle East are spending close to 58 million more hours on Facebook and watching more YouTube videos than at any other time of the year, making Ramadan the biggest moment of the year for advertisers. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
A woman uses her mobile at the Facebook office in Dubai, UAE. AP

"Consumption and time spent on our platforms does indeed increase," Ramez Shehadi, Facebook's managing director for Mideast and North Africa, added to AP.

People stay up later at night during Ramadan and have more downtime, especially before iftar and during suhoor. Peak hours of social media usage is before iftar, from around 6pm to 7pm, and between 12am to 4am.

Online for a good cause

Users also multitask their technological use, by checking Facebook and watching TV at the same time, for instance, as people gather around the table to eat together; 76 per cent of TV viewers in the UAE do this.

Facebook has attempted to emulate the spirit of the holy month. With the launch of Shared by Facebook, users can access a wide variety of charitable causes and initiatives, which includes clothes, food and blood donation.

"Across the region, Facebook has been instrumental in enabling communities to connect and build positive social impact during Ramadan: from Facebook's Giving is in Your Blood to Hack for Good initiative and [the] Ramadan Fridges, we've seen people use our platforms to bring brilliant ideas to life and address important issues while bringing people closer together,” said Shehadi at the Shared by Facebook launch on April 30.

Despite the surge of social media use, platforms have responded by providing their users with a meaningful way to engage with them.

Updated: May 29, 2019 04:36 PM

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