Online Sense is ICDL Arabia's philanthropic arm aimed at raising public awareness on Cyber Safety.

If you are an Arab or have lived in the Arabian Gulf, you probably know that privacy is a very important issue here (particularly for women). Moreover, keeping one’s personal information about oneself and sheltering oneself from society is particularly common in women who share conservative values…

…at least in the real world.

In the online world, however – particularly on social media – it is also common for the same women to post photos and videos of themselves on a regular basis. From Snapchat to Instagram to Facebook, women live a completely different ‘social’ life.

Is what they’re doing right or wrong? We hope to raise some thoughts and share some insights that address that in this article.

Why Social Media Is Important for Women’s Empowerment

As a woman living in the Arabian Gulf, it may be difficult to express yourself in a society where women may be expected to stay a more reserved than men. As a result, they have less opportunities to interact with people in society, especially if they are unemployed.

The Internet changes that, several women use social media as an outlet to interact with others, expand their outreach, and get their voices heard.

In addition, they use it to erase barriers that could hinder the very opportunities that maintain stereotypes for what the female population must (or must not) do. They can express themselves more freely with people from different cultures to integrate with other people.

Why Social Media Can Hinder Women’s Empowerment

Of course, there are cases where women get too carried away with what they share on social media. This ‘oversharing’ concept can lead to several negative effects.

In conservative societies (many of which are found in the Arab region and/or countries that follow Islamic law), people may have the fear of releasing information after it has been published. Although humans in general need some sort of outlet, some people can take private information from people’s social media accounts and use it for malicious purposes.

Is Social Media Empowering or Exploitive?

The short answer to this question is… it depends.

The long answer?

What happens on social media is a reflection of what happens in a society.

To give an example, more women are using Snapchat in Saudi Arabia than men. There are several reasons for why that is.

Women take to social media for multiple reasons, many of which are not exclusive to women. Many of them may feel alone, insecure, and/or may have difficulty communicating with people in real life due to lack of experience.

We have seen how social media can change people’s perspectives and push the limits of a culture.

The Internet may have its downfalls when it comes to privacy, but, when used with good intentions, it can do wonderful things to give women (and men) a voice in a society that required social interaction to succeed.