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MERS: Social Media Responsible for False info – Arab News

15 May
via David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

If there is a contest for the topic of the week in the Saudi social media scene; last week’s prize would definitely go to “Coronavirus.”
It is everywhere you go; on Twitter, plenty of tweets and hashtags about the virus, on Facebook, endless feeds and links to online newspapers rambling about the subject and on the top of them all, stream of endless WhatsApp messages.

It is normal, understandable even, that such a topic would grab the attention of the public. Just all of a sudden, news about medical practitioners contracting the virus started to fly all over the place. People started to worry, talk, gossip, and of course, feeding social media platforms with their fears.

However, the unfortunate thing is that most of the shared and talked about news, information and advices, are baseless, hyped, or driven out of context. 

Truth became as a drop in a sea of lies and made up information.

An environment of panic is suitable for rumors to grow and spread. There are messages on how to protect yourself and family from the virus, warnings about not even going to hospitals or to be around them, false news about hospitals closing their doors and doctors no longer going to their workplaces, about discovered vaccines and new ways to contain the spread. 

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Life is but a Balance Act – Arab News

15 May
via arztsamui/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via arztsamui/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

When he felt death crawling toward his bed, he called for his sons and daughters to come. Gathered around in his room, he looked at them, one after another, adults of different personalities, dreams, experiences, achievements and setbacks. He felt as a stranger among them. Life has passed by, with all its adversities and accomplishments, but in that moment, he felt like he had not lived at all. 
It felt as if his life had started yesterday and it was about to end anytime today. He felt like he had never been in love, never witnessed the joy of passing a ball to his own son, of holding the hand of his little daughter in a swimming pool, of having a quite dinner with his wife, of being around family and friends laughing and letting go. It has been all about work, deadlines, negotiating with this, fighting with that, making money and buying stuff that he never enjoyed. It felt like he did not only miss his life, but the lives of all those gathered around him.

The above introduction might feel like a scene from an old movie, or like an excerpt from a melodramatic story. However, if we try to feel this situation, it would dawn on us that it could happen to anyone of us.

We play many roles and wear different hats in our lives; as professionals, spouses, parents, friends, family members, citizens, and as human beings with their own dreams and ambitions. It is but natural that these roles sometimes collide at one moment or the other. They fight to get your attention, to direct your efforts, to hold on to your dedication. Unfortunately, in juggling all these responsibilities, a lot of us lose control.

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Twitter: Does the Followers’ Count Matter? – Arab News

15 May
via jscreationzs/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via jscreationzs/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

I read this story somewhere; I am not sure if it is meant to be a joke or it is based on true events. It goes like this: An old woman was looking for a wife for her son. She was attending a wedding when a girl caught her eye and she decided to approach her and check if she was already taken. 

After exchanging a few words, the woman told the girl: “I think I like you and I believe my son would too, his name is XXXX, do you know him?” The girl was taken aback, “What do you mean by that? Of course I don’t know him!” the girl said. “He has so many followers on Twitter, are you sure you don’t know him,” the mother said with an edge of anger to her voice.
Whether the incident is true or fictitious, it revolves around a very important question: Anyone on Twitter must have pondered upon at least once … does followers’ count matter?

For a lot of people, the number of followers on Twitter is a huge sign of popularity. It is an indication of influence, credibility. When you open the profile of a Twitter user with lots of followers, you would automatically assume that he is influential; he must have something important to say.

I hope you won’t be surprised when I tell you that this is not entirely true. According to many analysts, a Twitter user with a 1,000 followers could be more influential than the one with 50,000 or even 100,000 followers.

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Differentiating between Real and Fictitious amid Fears – Arab News

15 May
via marin/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via marin/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

At a recent get-together, one of our friends surprised us by showing up wearing a medical mask. Another complained that most pharmacies were out of hand sanitizers. All this and much more is perhaps the natural reaction to the reports about spread of coronavirus or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in Jeddah.

About a week ago, panic gripped the city when reports about the death of a medical practitioner went public. He died of MERS in one of the government hospitals in Jeddah. In the wake of his death, various rumors started doing the rounds and not to be surprised most of the social media networks went abuzz with different theories.

Frankly speaking, despite the seriousness of this issue one has to admit that the social media and different online news outlets blew the issue out of proportion. However, the health officials decided to maintain their silence. And perhaps rumors feed on silence. Tweets, Facebook feeds, and WhatsApp messages went crazy with rumors about closure of hospitals, huge numbers of fatalities, and list upon lists of health guidelines pouring in from everywhere in the cyberspace. 

Such a situation always gives rise to (sometimes) unwarranted fears, which grow due to people’s natural concern for the safety of their loved ones.

After some delay, the Ministry of Health (MoH) finally broke its silence over the issue. As always when an official comes forward to contain a situation fatted with rumors, people receive his statements with skepticism. In the era of the fast and furious social media networks, you do not voluntarily give the crowd the chance to tell your side of the story, to speak in your behalf; by doing so you simply lose your credibility. Despite repeated statements and photos of routine work carried out in various hospitals and official visits to one of the hospitals particularly in the news, there are those who still swear that four hospitals have already been closed because of the virus; they have the WhatsApp messages to prove it!

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The Pros and Cons of Digital Technology – Arab News

13 May
via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

The expression “Digital Detox” found its way to the Oxford Dictionary Online back in August last year.

The dictionary states: “Digital detox (n): A period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world: Break free of your devices and go on a digital detox.”

With the rapid change we are all going through in the way we entertain, connect, and educate because of the Internet, came a movement that is advocating a “back for reality” approach; let’s meet and interact with real people of flesh and blood, not only bios, avatars, feeds, and timelines.

The repeated calls for such digital detoxing in the form of “unplugging” campaigns opened the door for an interesting debate; do we really need to digital detox?

Those in favor of the “unplugging” do have a lot of researches and studies on their side. Some of these studies have been discussed in here, on this very page. These studies confirm that we are more mentally and physically drained these days because of our constant attachment to our phones and tablets.

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Why should we travel? – Arab News

13 May
via Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Ambro/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

Airports are chaotic places. They are noisy, stressful, and unorganized. It is where people bump into each other filled with different hopes, dreams, fears, and feelings. It is where scents collide; languages mix, and sounds form an orchestra of endless tones. 
Despite waiting in queues, uncomfortable planes’ seats and hotels’ beds, jet lag and expensive meals, we long to travel, to escape the monotony of daily routine.

Why do you travel? Ask this question and expect to be overwhelmed with a long list of reasons: To reduce stress, change environment, for adventure, to meet new people, and to study arts and history. We travel “to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment no matter what,” says George Santayana in his beautify written letter “The Philosophy of Travel.”

Saudis love to travel. We may not make top the list like Germans, Britons, Americans, Japanese, Chinese, and Australians but if you talk about the Middle East, we are all over the place. Just ask Cairo (back in the days), Beirut (before its politics went crazy), Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Bahrain, Casablanca, and London about Saudis roaming their streets, malls and cafes.

We do share some of the reasons of why we choose to travel with the rest of world; breaking routine and changing scenery tops the list. Add to it some simple pleasures like going to the cinema and you might sum up all the reasons of why up to 80 percent of the Saudis travel. Art, history and engaging with cultures are not usually part of our travel plans that if we have a plan to start with! I know those who visit Egypt regularly and what they know about the pyramids is only that pharaohs built those structures, those who know the Harrods but not the British Museum, the Times Square but not the plays on Broadway, the Galleria Vittorio but nothing about the Colosseum.

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Finding the Link Between Twitter and Hike in Sales – Arab News

13 May
via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Stuart Miles/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

The relationship between businesses and Twitter is hazy despite assurances any social media professional is able to provide. The return on investment (ROI) is very hard to determine in order to justify any kind of deal in Twitter or in any other social media platform.

However, there are a lot of supporting decisions that a business needs to make before deciding to join Twitter. If the goal is to use Twitter to drive sales numbers, then you should stop for a moment to reconsider; Twitter is not that successful in driving sales!
In a recent survey by Social Media Marketing University of more than 1,000 marketing professionals in the US, only 24.4 percent professionals used Twitter feeds for the purpose of driving sales upward. This goal ranked 7th in the list.

At overwhelmingly 79.4 percent, comes “increasing brand awareness” as the number one goal of marketers using Twitter.
Then comes driving traffic to the business website (58 percent), followed by engaging existing customers (55 percent), finding new leads (51.9 percent), improving brand image (42 percent), and increasing customers’ loyalty (39.7 percent).
The results of such surveys come at odds with many local marketers’ beliefs and repeated assurances that Twitter could be mainly used to increase and drive sales.

A number of big organizations in the Kingdom and in the Gulf region are using Twitter as nothing but an advertising channel. Their Twitter feeds are a series of nonstop sales pitches and special offers! It never ceases to amaze me that there are people who follow such accounts allowing their timeline to be flooded with such never ending ads; local airlines, telecom companies, and retail stores usually like to do that.

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Much Ado about Women Issues – Arab News

13 May
via Chris Sharp/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Chris Sharp/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

It seems that women will continue to be one of the major topics of controversy in the Kingdom for the few years to come; and when I say “few years,” I am only saying it out of optimism, it could easily be “long years to come.”

Each and every issue related to women is an open arena of personal opinions and individual judgments that are mostly flavored by religious and political debates. We talk endlessly about the way women should move, wear, work, talk, or, to put it in few words, lead their lives. Actually, if you want any topic to make it to the headlines and to be the hashtag of the day in the Saudi Twitterverse, throw the word “women” in the middle of it.

The relationship between Saudi man and woman is strikingly unique and … a bit confusing. It is always swaying in the shadows of love and hate, at the intersection of care and neglect, in the grey area between protection and overprotection. While a man can talk with a passionate sense of pride and honor about his direct family like mother, wife, and sisters, he can switch gears in a second and shamelessly slander other women he does not approve of.

The subject of this article came to mind while reading the media coverage of the Saudi Shoura member who “decided not to wear the traditional black abaya” in one of the Shoura sessions.

If you started to read the coverage, and the tweets under the hashtag that ignited the fire before seeing the controversial photo of Dr. Hayat Sindi, the Shoura member, you would promptly assume that Dr. Sindi committed the unthinkable and came under the dome of the Shoura without her hair covered. Now if you know Dr. Sindi, you will not only be surprised, but shocked, because Dr. Sindi, with her multiple international appearances, in addition to being actually working abroad, has never been seen in public without her hijab. She is simply a Muslim woman who respects her religion. The same religion that promotes a decent attire and hair cover without ever giving a certain style or color the privilege of being the exclusive truth.

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Twitter will Lose Personality without ‘Hashtags’ and ‘Mentions’ – Arab News

13 May
via Witthaya Phonsawat/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via Witthaya Phonsawat/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

Users of Twitter know that “mentions” and “hashtags” are a big deal. They are the corner stones of the service of how people are using it and interacting with it. In Saudi Arabia, the introduction of the Arabic “hashtags,” in my opinion, was the main reason of why Saudis got hooked to Twitter at the first place.

So when Twitter’s head of news, Vivian Schiller, hints that the online platform might be rethinking some of its core feature, namely “mentions” and “hashtags,” she shakes the structure of the whole social media world.

During a speech at mediaXchange 2014 event in Denver, Schiler dropped the bomb. Many commentators who attended the event instantly fed the world with the news using nothing other than Twitter itself. Ben Smith, editor in chief of BuzzFeed, quoted Schiller in a tweet saying: “We are working on moving the scaffolding of Twitter into the background.”

Right away, the comment was analyzed and connected to an earlier statement made by Twitter’s chief executive Dick Costolo during the company’s earning call back in February; he was quoted saying: “By bringing the content of Twitter forward and pushing the scaffolding of the language of Twitter to the background, we can increase high-quality interactions and make it more likely that new or casual users will find this service as indispensable as our existing core users do. And we took initial steps in that direction with the introduction of media forward timelines and in-line social actions in October, and we’re already starting to see early signs that those initiatives are working well.”

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Technology and Those Shades of Gray – Arab News

13 May
via David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

via David Castillo Dominici/freedigitalphotos.net/not related to Arab News

It is no secret that technology and social media has changed the life as we knew it. We acknowledge that technology has affected our lives, even more, it has affected our brains.

An interesting article on Mashable, “8 ways Tech Has Completely Rewired Our Brains,” listed a number of changes that the digital age has brought upon us. Apparently, we have learned new tricks and adapted to new behaviors because of the new experiences we are exposing our brains to by being connected most of the time to online networks and new technologies.

One of the strangest new tricks our brains have adapted is that we are dreaming in colors now! This has been introduced in a study by Scotland’s Dundee University in 2008, and then confirmed by the American Psychology Association in 2011. 

This fact has confirmed earlier studies that suggested a correlation between exposure to black and white TV and dreaming in black and white. TV seems to be sneaking into our subconscious, affecting the colors of our dreams.

Another interesting social media effect on our minds is what New York Times calls FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). It is a mixture of anxiety, fear, irritation, and stress caused by fearing that by not being connected to your phone, Twitter or Facebook feeds, you could be missing out something really important! The outcome is a form of addiction; gluing your smartphone to your hand, and pushing that refreshing button rapidly.

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