Exploring Snapchat use and family life in Saudi Arabia

  • Fawzia Alosaimy

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

    Abstract

    Snapchat is a popular app-based platform in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and is often ranked first in the Arabic world for use. This project investigates how Saudi families use Snapchat, primarily from the parents’ perspective, and how their use challenges socio-cultural norms. It reports on a research project involving face-to-face interviews with 30 participants from three cities in Saudi Arabia. Snapchat’s ease of access has benefits for family members at the same time as shaking up the social norms, values and customs that make up their identity. Saudi family members use social media for family communication and practices of self-representation. Snapchat creates tensions for Saudi families that are in some ways similar to Western families, but with important differences. Practices are often understood through socio-religious framings, such as the affordance of surveillance in terms of the concept of the ‘evil eye’. The rhythms or temporality of appropriateness in public are understood by ethics in space and public decency. Temporality is connected by normative expectations around presenting and taking part in certain activities whether online or offline, and practices associated with childhood development, being punctual, or attending regular familial activities. There are resulting intergenerational differences expressed by participants around ‘appropriateness’. For example, appropriateness for parents is assessed by the religion, social norms, public ethics, expectations, and social etiquette while young adults assess it through alternative frameworks of socio-cultural value. Lastly, the use of Snapchat is occurring in a historical period of dramatic change in entire sectors in Saudi society whereby the increased access afforded by Snapchat means increased access to the broader world. Participants described social media use in terms of ‘Thagafet Ala:di’ which in Arabic literally means ‘normal culture’ but in this context is used ironically to describe how something new or different becomes normalised. Snapchat in term of ‘Thagafet Ala:di’ creates intergenerational tensions in particular with melting and loss of boundaries between public and private practices. Saudi parents are concerned about their sociocultural norms are being eroded as a result of their family members' everyday Snapchat practises.
    Date of Award2023
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorGlen Fuller (Supervisor), Scott Bridges (Supervisor) & Sora Park (Supervisor)

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