Technology and its effect on family ties in the Middle East

Palestinian college student Israa Al-ashqar ,23, works on an application on her mobile phone. (Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)

Palestinian college student Israa Al-ashqar works on an application on her mobile phone.
(Xinhua/Wissam Nassar)

On “Letters from Listeners” radio show on KBS World Radio Arabic, broadcasted every Sunday, the show’s host Youssry Sawaby tackles a new issue that concerns Arab listeners, taking their answers into consideration.

In their latest episode, broadcasted on 21st February, they addressed the dilemma of technological advances and its effect on family ties, whether it strengthens or weakens these ties. Also addressing the type of future we could expect in the recent technological advances when it comes to human interaction.

The 40-minutes long episodes included a wide range of opinions, Dounia Zed from Morroco believes that it’s all up to how we use this technology, using social media well could end up bringing family members closer, especially if some of them are living in other countries. While Mohamad Al-Matary from Jordan believes that family ties are extremely severed because of technology and its addiction, as he states that some families would all live in the same house, but have no interactions whatsoever.

Many of the viewers believe our future to be one of solitude because of technology and how we’re getting so immersed in the virtual worlds letting go bit by bit of our surroundings. Fatima Ayssari from Algeria says that technology is a double-edged weapon, it helps us get in touch with the world, but at the same time it weakened family ties, as visits are replaced with a text message.

Many people across the Arab world are becoming more reliant on technology and social media. Technology is proving to be a way of deepening the generation gap between children and their parents and grandparents as well. Amal Khalifa from Egypt says that despite older family members trying to get in touch with technology to have a common ground with their children, it’s still hard for them to take this new world in.

The main complaint is that family ties are no longer how they used to be, especially during holidays. Older viewers note that holidays used to be a time of family reunions, but the technology changed that.

One of the most interesting times of the year to witness the effect of media on social interactions among families is Ramadan. Ramadan is an entire month where Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, and during that month youth are immersed in their smartphones more than ever. A recent trend in Ramadan ads throughout Arab countries is to address youth, those who depend on social media, in trying to convince them that Ramadan is a “time for family, not for technology.” We see a lot of ads for products ranging from drinks to telecommunication companies advertising the slogan of “don’t use technology way too much.”

The Arab countries are starting to become a lot like western countries in depending on technology in things like getting a ride or buying grocery, and while that’s a good side of having technology at hand, it could get destructive. Family gathering have suffered the most in the recent years, and during Islamic traditional holidays such as Aid Al-Adha or Aid Al-Fitr where people used to pay 3 or 4 days visits to their relatives, they’re now sending texts over their phones. Sooner or later, family relations will be completely severed if we couldn’t reach a balance between relying on technology and keeping family ties intact.

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