Trends in Social Media Usage: An Investigation of its Growth in the Arab World

Trends in Social Media Usage: An Investigation of its Growth in the Arab World

Sulaiman Ibrahim Alreyaee (Al-Imam Mohammed Ibn Saud Islamic University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) and Aquil Ahmed (Aljouf University, Sakaka, Saudi Arabia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJVCSN.2015100103
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In the present era of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0, Social Networking Sites have given us means of providing real-time services. Recent years have brought a massive growth in the social networking phenomenon. The use of social media in the Arab World has been extensive, yet there is very little current, comprehensive and accurate accounts of social media usage is available. This study aims to highlight the highly used SNSs across the Arab Gulf States The database of StatCounter was selected for tracing the use and growth of SNSs in this region. The findings show that the three most used SNSs in the Arab Gulf region are: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It is observed that Facebook is the leading social networking site used in the region until now, but Twitter is fast gaining market. Twitter is becoming popular among users and giving a tough competition to Facebook in almost all countries of the region except Iraq. In 2013, it has moved to 1st position in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, replacing Facebook. However, in some countries like the UAE and Qatar, Facebook is still going strong.
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The emergence of World Wide Web (WWW) and Internet as a new media of Information storage and delivery provide an unparalleled media for delivery of information with greater speed and economy. The web technology and Internet has changed the way of information is stored, retrieved and communicated. Today, the internet magnitude is thousand times more than what it was a decade ago. It is estimated that as of March 2014, about 40.7% (2,937 millions) of the world population are using the Internet (“Internet World Stats: Usage and population statistics,” 2014).The evolutions of the social web and mobile technology have changed the way people use the internet. These two innovations coupled with powerful internet and networking technologies have created a global environment by drawing people of the world closer and closer together (Ahmed & Al Reyaee, 2014). People started using internet applications like email, chatting, messaging, etc. to remain in touch with their friends and family around the globe. This extensive mesh of social interactions is termed as social networks, which gradually became a powerful tool for communication and managing social relations.

A social networking is an online service, platform, or a site that focuses on building and reflecting of social networks or social relations among people, who share interests or activities. Social networks encompass the interactions between different individuals, members of a community or members across different communities. Each individual in this social network is represented as node and the communications represent the links among these nodes (Agarwal, Liu, & Zhang, 2009). Boyd and Ellison (2010) defined social networking sites as “web-based services that allow individuals to 1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, 2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and 3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system”. According to White, Plotnick, Kushma, Hiltz, and Turoff (2009), SNSs can be defined as any web-based applications that allow people to connect, communicate, and collaborate with one another. This is generally done through constructing individual user profiles and allows users to share information and join networks based on geographic location or interests. In short, a social network service essentially consists of a description of each user, his/her social links, and a range of additional services. Most social network services are web based and provide a means for users to communicate over the internet, such as email and instant messaging.

Today SNSs have become a social and cultural phenomenon among a large number of internet users. According to the Global Digital Statistics 2014, 26% of the world population are currently using social media. They are mainly used to connect people with each other in a variety of ways, including dating and meeting others with common interests and sharing information. They help to develop relationships that transcend age, race, social, culture, political and geographical barriers (Mansour, 2012). Arora (2008) has rightly stated that the greatest impact of SNSs can be well understood by the ever-increasing number of people joining them all over the globe. There are hundreds of SNSs world over with various affordances, supporting a wide range of interests, activities and practices. The main purpose of these sites is to connect individuals, based on common language or shared racial, sexual, religious, national identities or shared interests, political views and activities. These sites also vary in their extent to which they incorporate new information and communication tools, such as mobile connectivity, blogging, and photo/video sharing, etc. (Boyd & Ellison, 2010). The popularity of each social networking sites changes according to the features/services provided by that site in comparison with other sites. Furthermore, because of the fact that each social networking site has different features and functionalities, people tend to register with several social networks to satisfy different needs (Al-Badi, 2014). Table 1 lists the nature and growth of some of the popular Social Networking Sites.

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