I’m endlessly fascinated by social media and how people interact online. For me, online interactions tend to shed light on people’s off-line personalities. In this post I hope to share my own observations about how each of the Gulf’s nationals deals and interacts online.
Let’s start with Bahrain. Bahrain possibly has the highest concentration of social media users in the Gulf. Bahrainis are very media-savvy and that shows in their effective use of social media channels. The country’s polarization following the events of February and March 2011 is evident online, with the two sides doing their utmost to ensure that their voices are heard. Bahrain has some of the most-followed Twitter users in the Gulf but they inevitably relate to the political and human rights situation on the island. There’s a lot of trolls out there as well, so be aware that if you’re going to delve into any issue relating to Bahrain you’re going to draw attention to yourself.
Emiratis are fiercely patriotic and proud of their country’s achievements over the past 41 years. Emiratis speak in unison when it comes to politics and are the most supportive nationality in terms of the country’s leadership. Unlike Saudi, Kuwait, or Bahrain you’ll find little debate on the country and its long-term direction but more insight into social issues particularly those which affect the national community. You’ll find royal family members online, members of the Federal National Council, a police chief and lots of UAE-based expats.
Kuwaitis are known for many things, including being opinionated. This is no different online. The Gulf country with the most blogs per person Kuwait is all about politics and disagreement. Kuwait’s politics is just as vibrant online as it is in the country’s parliament, and when you mix in other electrifying issues such as the Bidoon, the country’s rulers, the Arab Spring and religion you’re going to come up with an incendiary cocktail. Some of the most interesting Tweeters are Kuwaiti bloggers and parliamentarians. Just handle with care!
The Qataris are a mischievous bunch. When they’re not commenting on Qatar’s latest attempt to buy a path across the globe (what next after Marks and Spencers?) they’re making the most out of their sense of fun with raucous commentary on the latest goings on in their country. Their musings on Qtel’s attempts to rebrand itself to Ooredoo were biting, as was the boycott against the very same company for its poor customer service (is anyone in the UAE and Etisalat listening?). The Qataris are a wonderful bunch to follow. And one or two of them love their Dunkin’ Donuts coffee!
Saudis, yes you cannot avoid them online just as you cannot avoid them in the physical world. I love Saudis and I love them just as much in cyberspace. They’re open, they’re diverse and they talk about everything. Saudis are not afraid to poke fun at themselves and they’re just at home talking about social issues, politics, arrange boycotts (aka AlShaya and Al-Marai) and even debate religion. There’s some remarkable Saudis online, from preachers to royals and ministers. Saudi is one of Twitter’s fastest growing markets. And they watch more Youtube than any other country worldwide. They are officially living online. And yes, one of them owns (a bit of) Twitter.
And finally, there’s the Omanis (I’m skipping the alphabetic sequencing on this one). I’ve rarely come across Omanis on social media, possibly because I’m not close to issues that they write about or follow. Omanis are known to be kind, courteous and have a fun sense of humour. Which means I really should go and find some Omani tweeters to detox from all of the politics and debate in the rest of the region.