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Social media sees widespread use in the UAE. Although it has the potential to be used for good, its overconsumption affects the quality of relationships and marriage. It dissolves the traditional bonds between people and affects human interaction. In the UAE, 9% of the population state that social media has negatively affected their marriage. Children that interact with their parents using social media are 33% more disconnected from their families.
Social media has become an essential part in the life of a modern-day individual in the UAE. However, it also has a detrimental effect on human relationships. Over the course of the past 18 years, these services have effectively reduced the value of human-to-human interaction and caused numerous issues to public health. The UAE was always a country deeply-rooted in tradition. The family was always considered to be the building block of the society, the tiniest cell with its own purposes and responsibilities.
At the same time, the institution of marriage in the UAE has been in a steady decline, with divorce rates managing those of Europe and the USA. This paper will explore the effects of social media in its relation to marriage, highlighting both the positive and the negative effects on the individuals and society as a whole.
What is Marriage For?
In order to understand the scope of the issue, it must first be understood what marriage is and what it stands for. Marriage was created in ancient times as a way of solidifying the society and creating stable relationships for labor, economic prosperity, and procreation (Davidson, 2016). A family with two adults and children is typically more prosperous than a family with a single parent. It has more connections between individuals on both sides of the family, more economical venues to explore, more motivation to work, better division of labor, and better psychological stability (Davidson, 2016). All of these outcomes are favorable for successful civilizations and governments. At the same time, a society with a weak institution of marriages is likely to generate a greater number of abortions, orphans, crime, unhappiness, and poverty. The institution of family is the glue that holds all societies together.
The UAE and the Internet
The UAE is considered to be one of the most digitized countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). The country’s current population is 9.45 million people, 9.38 of which are active users of social media and the internet (GMI, 2018). Total exposure to wired or wireless internet is over 95%, with free wi-fi connection available on bus stops, in public transports, in cafeterias, in libraries, banks, government institutions, and nearly everywhere else (GMI, 2018). This creates a situation where using social media is an unavoidable consequence, due to the ease of access and entertainment it provides.
Out of the 9.38 million social media users, nearly 8.7 million people access it through the use of a mobile device (GMI, 2018). The total number of such devices in the country exceeds 16 million. It suffices to say that nearly every individual in the country has a smartphone with internet access and knows how to use it to surf social media. The average amount of time spent by an individual citizen of the UAE in social media is 2 hours 56 minutes a day (GMI, 2018). The annual growth is also staggering, with 120,000 new users registering on a yearly basis (GMI, 2018). As it is possible to see, social media is essential for the majority of the population.
The Effects on Marriage in the UAE
Social media allows people to stay connected when there are great distances between them. This has greatly improved the avenues for romance, friendship, and interconnectedness. Dating sites and dating groups on social media enable individuals that live far away from one another to fall in love and create bonds, which could later be transferred into marriage (Black, Moyer, & Goldberg, 2016). In that regard, social media had a beneficial effect on marriage, greatly expanding the number of potential life partners for both genders. Nevertheless, the detrimental effects on marriage are significantly worse.
The first issue lies in the fact that social media is addictive and potentially abusive by people who have no need for long-distance relationships. Human-to-human interaction is an exercise that requires social skills, grooming, verbal and non-verbal cues, and situational awareness (Black et al., 2016). Socializing on the internet, however, is much easier, as it requires none of these qualities. As a result, the value of human interaction drops in favor of quick and easy fixes that result in approximately the same amount of pleasure. Lack of human interaction means a lack of physical and emotional attachment. As a result, bonds between parents, children, and even friends become weaker, which is detrimental to the creation of a lasting union.
The second issue lies in the promotion of infidelity on both sides. Social media allows access to a multitude of potential sexual partners with little to no awareness from the spouse. It serves as a means of setting up affairs, seeking out pleasure, and other immoral activities. As a result, the bonds of marriage are made weaker, as both spouses can easily find “replacements” using a social network. This has been shown to become an issue in the UAE as well.
Social media trivializes interaction as well. A little bit of distance between family members while they go to work, to school, or on a field trip creates a sense of longing, which makes reunions even more satisfied. It also creates certain points of interest in one another, as everyone has something exciting to tell. With the widespread use of social media, everyone is always online. As soon as something exciting happens, everyone gets to know via a Twitter message or a Facebook post. Individuals that overly rely on social media tend to drown their front pages with pointless pictures of their breakfasts, drinks, and other trivialities. As a result, there is nothing to talk about when a family assembles at a dinner table.
Lastly, social media serves as a portal into what was normally considered private. It is very easy for children to discover embarrassing pictures of their parents, which successfully undermines parental authority. Research shows that children in the UAE that use social media are 33% more disconnected from their parents than those who are not addicted to the internet (Black et al., 2016). It is also easy for spouses to discover their significant others in an inappropriate situation and misinterpret various images or messages. These factors, when combined together, significantly undermine relationships. According to Carolus (2017), 9 percent of UAE citizens state their relationship was damaged by social media.
Social media has the potential to improve relationships, but the potential for harm is also great. The institution of marriage must remain the building block of the society, in order to ensure stability and continuous growth. It would not be possible to instill regulations on media, due to how essential and widespread it has become. Nevertheless, the population must be educated about the consequences of social media addiction and on its effects on marriage, family life, and the relationships between life partners and their children.
Black, K. A., Moyer, A. M., & Goldberg, A. E. (2016). From face-to-face to Facebook: The role of technology and social media in adoptive family relationships with birth family members. Adoption Quarterly, 19(4), 307-332.
Carolus, A. (2017). UAE residents say social media affects relationships: Survey. The Arabian Marketer. Web.
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Davidson, D. Z. (2016). The history of marriage through the lens of case studies. Journal of Women’s History, 21(1), 157-165.
GMI. (2018). UAE social media usage statistics (2018). Web.