Snap study finds in Saudi Arabia and the UAE nearly half turn to Snapchat for daily communication with their best friends

Tuesday 25 June 2019
Dubai - MENA Herald:

Snap Inc. today released a global study of 10,000 people across Australia, France, Germany, India, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK and the US to explore how culture, age, and technology shape preferences and attitudes around friendship. Ten experts on friendship from around the world contributed to the report to contextualise the data. 

“Snapchat’s commitment to enabling self expression and connecting real friends compelled us to explore the attitudes, values and perceptions that shape friendship across cultures and generations,” said Amy Moussavi, Snap Inc. head of consumer insights. “While friendship may be different across regions and age groups, it plays a universally central role in our happiness and we are committed to finding new ways to celebrate and elevate it through Snapchat."

The Friendship Report sheds new light on the nature of friendship, including:

  • How different cultures’ interpretation of friendship impacts friendship circles: people in India, the Middle East and South East Asia report having three times the number of best friends as those in Australia, Europe and the U.S.
  • How friendship is linked to happiness and how those without friends or with overly large friendship groups find it more difficult to talk about their problems or share when they are feeling low
  • How we consider and form friendships is most heavily shaped by when, rather than where we are born: Gen Z in the US have more in common with Boomers in India than their own grandparents
  • Gen Z are adjusting their approach to friendship away from the Millennial desire for widespread networks and are looking for more closeness and intimacy with a smaller group

The Friendship Report also provides an insight into how people in Saudi Arabia and UAE think of and relate to their friends compared to the rest of the world.

People in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have the most best friends

The study found that people in Saudi Arabia and the UAE have more best friends than those in any other countries surveyed. On average, those living in Saudi Arabia say they have 6.6 best friends, followed by the UAE at 6.4 best friends on average. Meanwhile, adults in the UK only have an average of 2.6 people they consider to be their best friends.  

People in the Middle East want more friends

UAE and Saudi respondents are also more likely to say they want more friends. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of Saudi respondents and more than half (55%) of those living in the UAE say they would like to expand their social circle, compared to just 40% of respondents in the US, Europe and Australia.

The desire to expand one’s social circle is no surprise, considering that interactions with friends leave those living in the UAE and Saudi Arabia with overwhelmingly positive emotions. When asked about the most common emotions they experience after interacting with their best friends, respondents in both countries most frequently mention ‘loved’, ‘happy’, and ‘supported’. This holds true regardless of whether the interaction takes place in person or online.

The Middle East turns to tech to maintain its close friendships

As the UAE and Saudi Arabia are home to people of many different nationalities and backgrounds, people living in the two Gulf countries are also more likely to turn to technology to maintain their friendships. Thirty-six percent of respondents in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia say they like to talk to friends online or through apps because it means they can talk to their friends faster and more easily (compared to 27% in the US, Europe & Australia).

When it comes to using technology to communicate with friends and maintain their friendships, the study confirms that many people turn to Snapchat. Nearly half of those living in Saudi Arabia (49%) and the UAE (43%) say they use Snapchat daily to communicate with their best friends. Furthermore, 30% of those surveyed in Saudi Arabia say they use Snapchat “all day, every day” to communicate with their closest friends. 

A picture paints a thousand words

Platforms like Snapchat are popular in the Middle East because in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, many feel they can better express themselves with videos and photos than words.  Approximately two in three (69% in Saudi Arabia; 63% in the UAE) say videos and photos help them express what they want to say in a way that words do not allow.   

Explaining how useful videos and photos can be in communication, Miriam Kirmayer, a therapist specialising in interpersonal relationships, states, “Any medium that allows us to share both verbal and non-verbal behavior, like video, can help us to feel closer and more connected and to navigate relationship challenges with clarity.”

The report also shows that while Saudi respondents (18%) are least likely to say their best friend is of the opposite sex, Saudis (25%) are also significantly more likely than respondents in the US, Europe and Australia to say they want to make their social circle more diverse. Roudha al Marri, who co-authored a guide on the nuances of Saudi friendship, says that social media is playing an important role here, “The ability to communicate without being in the same physical space has improved communication between genders. Men and women can develop friendships in a way that has not been possible before.”

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