Saudi Arabia is home to a large number of expatriates, most of who come to the Kingdom in search of better opportunities.
However, the loss of close family ties is undeniable. Thanks to technology, expats have now turned to modern communication tools such as Facebook, Skype and Twitter to be able to stay in touch with loved ones.
The most evident reason for the rise in the social media trend is because it offers cheaper means of communication compared to landlines and mobile phones. Also, the technology is instant which keeps you connected with the world around the clock.
Riffat Ayesha, mother of three, says, “I began using social media after my daughters left the Kingdom to pursue higher education. If it was not for Skype, I would be very lonely. It also helps me stay connected with my relatives around the world.”
Expats are not so reluctant to leave their homelands anymore as technology has made the transition much easier.
Salman Habib, 26, says, “When I first came here, I felt lost! Now, I have turned to social media and my parents back home are up-to-date with every move I make,” he added with a chuckle.
With other social media forums, like Foursquare and Instagram, which offer picture sharing options and check-in, you can travel virtually with your friends and family members.
Twitter is a vital social media tool too. It helps expats stay in tune with news, current affairs and events taking place in their homeland, you can also talk to anybody, as they are just a tweet away.
Besides, staying connected with loved ones; social media allows expats to learn about Saudi Arabia’s lifestyle, culture and people. It also gives them a chance to contact other expats in the Kingdom for advice and assistance.
On the other hand, Hotmail and Yahoo have witnessed a decline as messaging tools, in part due to the advent of instant messaging services such as Whatsapp and BlackBerry Messenger, which offer users immediate communication channels.
The absence of Viber, a popular communication android application, which has recently been blocked in the Kingdom, is heavily felt by expats.
Adib Shiekh, 56, described the impact of blocking Viber on her, saying, “When I first heard the news, I was in shock. I could not imagine learning to use another social media application again. Not to mention, Viber was user friendly and very convenient.”