The impact of the social media on the Saudi family, both in terms of its positives and negatives, was the theme of the first session of the First Riyadh Social Forum held Tuesday.
The event was attended by Social Affairs Minister Yousef Al-Othaimeen on behalf of Prince Salman, minister of defense. The Social Awareness and Rehabilitation Association (WAEE) organized the event, which brought together Saudi academics and intellectuals, among others.
Al-Otheimeen reaffirmed the Kingdom's commitment to the care and well-being of society when he observed: “We are keen to ensure that every single citizen (male and female) gets their due rights in society.” He added Saudi Arabia always supports activities that promote the welfare of the community.
Omar bin Abdul Rahman Al-Mufaddah, chairman of the association, thanked Prince Salman for his generous sponsorship of the event by underlining his support for social welfare programs. He also called for social partnerships within the framework of the overall objective of socioeconomic development.
He said the idea behind organizing such a forum was to ensure social welfare schemes could be tackled through joint action involving the government and civil society. In this context, the social media could play a useful role in highlighting the social problems to the government.
The forum seeks to provide insights into scientific and national initiatives to advance community development in the Kingdom by working to attract the attention of the competent authorities and government sectors concerned with social welfare and convert those visions and initiatives into a scientific project utilizing research, studies, lectures, seminars and publications that would achieve the objectives of the forum and meet the aspirations of the country and citizens, he added.
The first session on family and globalization culture was addressed by former Social Affairs Minister Ali Al-Namlah and Abdulkareem Bakkar, with Khaled Alawad as moderator.
The discussion centered on social problems in the Saudi family. The panelists provided an overview of the problems in the context of cultural globalization brought about by the spread of the social media in Saudi society. According to the moderator, Saudi Arabia now is among the top countries in the Middle East using Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. According to a latest report, 4.5 million Saudis use Facebook alone.
Their growing influence had become a matter of concern among some Saudi parents, who are worried about their children's exposure to these channels.
Addressing their concerns, Ali Al-Namlah said his time is so precious that he has no time to waste on Facebook or Twitter, where he has no accounts. However, he asked audiences not to discourage or prevent others from using social media.
In contrast, Bakkar said social media helps him to communicate with a large number of people within a short time while he is at home. He thus stays tuned into their needs and concerns.
He urged the audience to accept the fact that society is now living in a different era and dealing with a new generation. One has to deal with them in accordance with their new social environment and education, he said. “We are living in a new global situation and have to deal with it with wisdom,” Bakkar said, citing an example when many people said bad things about mobile phones, which have now become popular.
With regard to the culture of globalization, Al-Namlah pointed out that there is a so-called exclusive culture or privacy culture. He cited US President Barack Obama, who is also of the same opinion on this issue. He said Obama himself believes that people's cultures and their beliefs must be respected. Al-Namlah said any society will not accept an alien culture imposed on them.
“We believe that the Saudi family is facing unfriendly challenges because of its belief and culture,” he said, adding that this will not stand long in the face of people's beliefs and principles.
The panelists provided an overview of the problems in the context of cultural globalization brought about by the spread of the social media in Saudi society.
On the sidelines of the forum, Arab News talked to some Saudi youths attending the forum. While expressing their full respect for the elders’ opinions, all of them agreed with Bakkar’s argument that social media is an essential communication tool for their generation.