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Qataris are trendsetters in Social Media Use

Northwestern University in Qatar has released its 5th report on the Use of Media in the Middle East 2017. The survey this year included 7 countries and continues tracking the following areas:-

  • Media use by platform, comparing traditional and digital outlets;

  • News consumption and preference patterns for specific sources of news and information;

  • Internet use patterns and their consequences—with an emphasis on the rise and interplay of social media;

  • The relevance of mobile media; as well as

  • Perceptions of and opinions about free speech, online privacy, and bias and credibility across media types

We will highlight in this blog the chapter focusing on Qatar and how it distincts from the other surveyed nations.

Qataris demonstrate the most unique social media use patterns. Most internet users in Qatar use WhatsApp (93%) and about two-thirds use Instagram and Snapchat (70% Instagram, 64% Snapchat). This latter percentage represents perhaps the highest Snapchat penetration of any country in the world.

However, fewer than one in four Qatari internet users use Facebook (23%), one of the lowest Facebook penetration rates among wealthy countries. Nearly half of Qatari internet users use Twitter and four in 10 use YouTube (48% Twitter, 39% YouTube). In other countries surveyed, Facebook penetration is more robust among internet users(71% UAE, 87% Jordan, 84% Lebanon, 83% Tunisia, 59% KSA). Expatriate internet users in Qatar are also much more likely to use Facebook than Qatari nationals—by 40 percentage points (23% Nationals vs. 65% Arab expats, 80% Asian expats, 65% Western expats, among internet users).

Such low Facebook penetration among Qatari internet users reflects a significant and steady drop over time (65% in 2013 vs. 53% in 2015 vs. 23% in 2017). Other countries in this study have experienced a more modest decline in Facebook penetration since 2013.

Use of YouTube has also dropped among Qatari internet users, from 58% in 2015 to 39% in 2017, while remaining fairly stable across the region during the same period. Instagram use rose across the region since 2015, while remaining stable in Qatar. Still, more Qataris use Instagram by a wide margin (at least 27 percentage points) compared with all other nationals except Emiratis, who use Instagram at roughly the same rate. Compared with expatriates in Qatar, Qatari nationals are less likely to use YouTube but more likely to use Instagram (YouTube: 39% Nationals vs. 52% Arab expats, 73% Asian expats, 65% Western expats; Instagram: 70% Nationals vs. 44% Arab expats, 35% Asian expats, 45% Western expats, among internet users).

Snapchat has increased in popularity in all countries since 2015, but Qataris are still far more likely to use Snapchat than internet users from any other country (64% Qatar vs. 51% KSA, 51% UAE, 20% Lebanon, 16% Jordan, 7% Tunisia).

Qatari nationals are also more likely to use Snapchat compared with expatriates in the country by a wide margin (Snapchat: 64% Nationals vs. 27% Arab expats, 25% Asian expats, 36% Western expats, among internet users).

All Qataris use direct messaging (99%). Qataris estimate that about two-thirds of their direct messaging is with individuals and only one-third is through a group chat, which is the lowest percent of group messaging across the region (group messages: 33% Qataris vs. 52% other nationals). Most Qataris belong to group chats with friends and family, similar to other nationals (Qatar: 83% friends, 86% family). Yet Qataris are less likely than other nationals—and expatriates in their country—to belong to direct messaging groups with people who have similar interests and hobbies (29% Qataris vs. 51% other nationals; in Qatar: 29% Nationals, 39% Arab expats, 41% Asian expats, 36% Western expats).

Internet penetration has risen over time and nearly all Qataris are now online (95% in 2017 vs. 85% in 2013). While internet use is lower among older Qataris—similar to other countries surveyed—eight in 10 of the oldest age group use the internet (96% 18-24 year-olds, 100% 25-34 year-olds, 97% 35-44 year-olds, 82% 45+ year-olds).

Not only are most Qataris online, they also spend a lot of time on the internet. Qataris estimate they spend an average of 45 hours per week on the internet compared with just 27 hours among other nationals. They also spend more time online than foreign nationals who live in Qatar (45 hours Nationals vs. 46 Arab expats, 41 Asian expats, 30 Western expats).

Almost all Qataris own a smartphone, more than in 2015 (94% in 2017 vs. 90% in 2015). In comparison, computer use has declined, and now fewer than half of Qataris say they connect to the internet with a computer (53% in 2015 vs. 45% in 2017). Computer use has similarly declined in all countries except Tunisia. Use of tablets also declined in Qatar, while tablet use increased or remained stable in all other countries except the UAE (Qatar: 18% in 2017 vs. 34% in 2015).

Wi-Fi and mobile data service connections are both very common in Qatar. In comparison, Saudis and Emiratis are much more likely to connect via Wi-Fi than through a mobile data service, while the opposite is true for Jordanians (Qatar: 87% Wi-Fi vs. 78% data service; KSA: 84% Wi-Fi vs. 55% data service; UAE: 97% Wi-Fi vs. 58% data service; Jordan: 40% Wi-Fi vs. 84% data service).

Qataris, along with Emiratis, spend the most time socializing with family face-to-face each week (45 hours Qatar, 45 UAE vs. 35 Jordan, 33 Lebanon, 28 KSA, 27 Tunisia). Similar to other nationals, Qataris spend far less time—13 hours per week—socializing with friends face-to-face.

Qataris spend twice as much time socializing online with friends as with family (7 hours with family vs 14 hours with friends). Other nationals, however, spend a roughly equal number of hours socializing online with family and friends.

The full report about the survey can be fully accessed at

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