Why parents need to educate their children that ‘seeing is not always believing’ in the case of influencers on social media

Why parents need to educate their children that ‘seeing is not always believing’ in the case of influencers on social media
Social media has become a prominent, perhaps dominant, way for teenagers to interact with other people and the wider world. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 28 June 2021

Why parents need to educate their children that ‘seeing is not always believing’ in the case of influencers on social media

Why parents need to educate their children that ‘seeing is not always believing’ in the case of influencers on social media
  • What effect is pressure to emulate physical perfection and lavish lifestyles of social media stars having on teenagers in Saudi Arabia?

JEDDAH: Impressionable children are susceptible to many forms of influence during their formative years, good and bad. During their teenage years, as they begin to grow more independent, they can be particularly vulnerable to the more negative forces.

For this reason it is important for parents, particularly in relatively conservative Muslim societies such as Saudi Arabia, to monitor their childrens’ lives and relationships so that any damaging effects can be spotted early.

In the modern world, however, this is not always easy. 

Social media has become a prominent, perhaps dominant, way for teenagers to interact with other people and the wider world, and it can be hard for parents to keep tabs on who their children are following.

There are many types of internet influencers and celebrities in online communities covering a wide range of interests and industries. 

Arguably the most influential of all are those who focus on fashion and beauty. 

In a sector long obsessed with looks and the quest for physical perfection, appearance can be key to success in the crowded online world.

But appearances can be deceptive. In Saudi Arabia, like everywhere else, it is common for influencers to carefully manage and curate the image they present to the world. 

This often includes manipulating photographs digitally to make themselves look as good as possible — sometimes to the point where they are almost unrecognizable from their normal selves.

This creates an extremely unrealistic view of looks and beauty, which adds to the pressure on teenagers who might worry that they cannot live up to this enhanced and distorted idea of physical perfection. In some cases this pressure can lead to physical and mental health problems.

“They all heavily edit their photos and they look perfect in all of them, but when you see them in real life they look nothing like that,” 17-year-old Celine Baroudi told Arab News.

Even though teenagers might be aware that influencers rarely look as good in real life as they do in the carefully chosen and edited photos on social media, they can still be negatively affected by exposure to the images of unrealistic, unachievable perfection.

“We know that they don’t look like that but I still see how beautiful they look and I always ask myself, ‘Why can’t I look like them? Why can’t I be beautiful like that?’” said Baroudi.

“I have an absolutely beautiful friend but she still wants to look like them (the influencers), so she’s stopped eating and works out until she’s lightheaded or faints. I went through a similar phase during Ramadan. It wasn’t good.”

Some might wonder why, if teenagers are aware that photos of influencers are often manipulated and not an accurate reflection of reality, do they not simply ignore the unrealistic standards.

According to Zeena Hashem, a specialist in adolescent psychotherapy from the Adult and Child Therapy Center in Jeddah, it is not that simple. 

She highlighted the results of a national survey, carried out in 2017 by Oraynab Abu Abbas and Fadia Al-Buhairan, that focused on the mental well-being of teenagers in the Kingdom in the era of social media.

“They surveyed 12,121 adolescents in Saudi Arabia and they found that 60.4 percent of them were unsatisfied with their body images, and that resulted in them feeling sad or hopeless,” said Hashem.

The reason why young people cannot simply ignore the images presented by influencers, even when they know they have been digitally manipulated, is a phenomenon known in psychology as the G.I. Joe Fallacy, she explained. 

This refers to a misguided notion that simply knowing about a bias is enough to overcome it. The name is derived from the 1980s animated US TV show G.I. Joe, every episode of which included a public service announcement and the closing comment: “Now you know. And knowing is half the battle.”

“Your brain’s awareness of reality does not mean it accepts it,” said Hashem. 

“So, even though adolescents know that these influencers are adding filters or photoshopping their photos, they still can’t help but feel insecure.” She added that brain development during the teenage years also plays a part in how young people respond to misleading images.

“The white matter connections (responsible for carrying nerve impulses between neurons) and the synapses (the point of communication between two neighboring neurons) in their brains are increasing,” said Hashem. 

“This greatly impacts their behavioral control because they are still in a learning and sensitive stage.

“Psychologically, however, since they are slowly becoming adults, they want to find themselves and separate themselves from their parents, so they go looking for any form of influence outside of the house — and figures on social media are the most accessible.”

Hashem strongly suggests that parents educate their children to help prepare them psychologically for the deceptive nature of the Internet and prevent any harmful effects on their mental well-being.

Noha Ali said that she struggles with how she perceives her body because she compares herself with the influencers she follows.

“I know none of it is real,” said the 19-year-old. 

“But for some reason every time I see their photos I still want to look like them. It has affected me subconsciously; I find myself wondering why I can’t look like them and I end up feeling upset.”

Lara Kokandy, 16, said: “They’re setting unrealistic body standards. And I say unrealistic because they photoshop their bodies without realizing how they’re impacting their young followers. A lot of my friends and I sometimes feel sad because of it.”

Such feelings are common. Therapist Alia Mustafa, who specializes in art therapy for children, said that body dissatisfaction among teens can cause many problems.

“Nowadays, teenagers have become an image-obsessed generation who are constantly following ‘perfect’ influencers,” she said.

“Having these thoughts can lead to many other potential disorders: bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa, as well as body dysmorphic disorder.”

It is not only the physical appearance of influencers that can affect the mental well-being of adolescents, she added, but also the lavish lifestyles they embody and promote. For example, one adolescent patient’s desire to emulate the lifestyle a particular influencer contributed to depression.

“Every session, my client would discuss with me all the news she had read about an influencer who she and her friends are obsessed with, and how they want her life,” Mustafa said.

“During one of our sessions, she mentioned how she was angry at her parents for not providing her with the same lifestyle. This added to her depression; she was constantly putting herself down for not living like her idol. Teenagers look up to influencers and this leads to them wanting to imitate their lifestyles.”

Lojain Ahmed makes no secret of her desire to live like the influencers she follows.

“I look at some influencers’ lavish lifestyles,” the 17-year-old said. 

“It’s weird to see them traveling all over the world and buying everything — especially influencers my age.

“It makes me look at my own life and what I don’t have or what I’m not doing, and why I can’t have what they have or do what they’re doing.”

But like most things in life, there are positive and negative sides to the Internet and social media, and in the case of influencers it is important to remember that seeing is not always believing.

 


EU gives Google 2 months to improve hotel, flight search results

EU gives Google 2 months to improve hotel, flight search results
Updated 26 July 2021

EU gives Google 2 months to improve hotel, flight search results

EU gives Google 2 months to improve hotel, flight search results
  • EU provides Google with two months to improve the way the platform shows internet search results in relation to hotels and flights
  • Google has long faced scrutiny from antitrust enforcers and consumer groups around the world over its business practices
BRUSSELS: Alphabet unit Google has two months to improve the way it presents Internet search results for flights and hotels and explain how it ranks these or face possible sanctions, the European Commission and EU consumer authorities said on Monday.
The world’s most popular Internet search engine has long faced scrutiny from antitrust enforcers and consumer groups around the world over its business practices, which in some cases have landed it with hefty fines.
The latest grievance centers on the prices on its services Google Flights and Google Hotels.
The final prices for these should include fees or taxes that can be calculated in advance, while reference prices used to calculate promoted discounts should be clearly identifiable, the EU executive and national consumer watchdogs, led by the Dutch agency and the Belgian Directorate General for Economic Inspection, said in a joint statement.
“EU consumers cannot be misled when using search engines to plan their holidays. We need to empower consumers to make their choices based on transparent and unbiased information,” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.
The agencies also told Google to revise the standard terms of its Google Store because some cases showed that traders have more rights than consumers.
If Google’s proposals are not sufficient, the agencies will discuss the issue further with the company and may impose sanctions.
Google said in a statement: “We welcome this dialogue and are working closely with consumer protection agencies and the European Commission to see how we can make improvements that will be good for our users and provide even more transparency.”

Tunisian journalist union calls for protection of journalists after Ennahda threats

Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” (Facebook)
Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” (Facebook)
Updated 26 July 2021

Tunisian journalist union calls for protection of journalists after Ennahda threats

Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” (Facebook)
  • The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists demanded that Tunisian authorities provide protection for journalists in the country
  • Tensions in the North African country rose on Sunday after President Kais Saied suspended Parliament, fired PM Mechichi and dissolved the government

LONDON: The National Syndicate of Tunisian Journalists (SNJT) demanded that Tunisian authorities provide protection for journalists in the country on Monday, after reporter Mohamed Yousfi announced he had received threats from members of the Muslim Brotherhood-associated Ennahda party.

Yousfi reportedly received threats from Ennahda supporters over claims he made during an appearance on Al-Mayadeen television channel earlier this week that members of the movement blackmailed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and prevented his resignation. 

 

 

Tensions in the North African country rose on Sunday after President Kais Saied suspended Parliament, fired Mechichi and dissolved the government. 

Parliament’s speaker, Rached Ghannouchi, the head of Ennahda party, called the president’s move a coup and an “assault on democracy.”

Yousfi announced via his personal Facebook page on Saturday that he had been confined to his house over the weekend “because of serious … and dangerous threats.” 

In the post he said he held the president, prime minister, head of the military and the acting minister of the interior responsible for his safety. 

In a statement published on its Facebook page, the SNJT said that Yousfi had received “death threats regarding his media statements in which he portrayed the general situation of the country, including the political, health and social crisis,” which had “caused a systematic campaign of incitement, insult and assault against him by electronic accounts and militias working on behalf and for the benefit of political parties supporting the government.”

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have designated the Ennahda party as a terrorist organization.

The SNJT also condemned campaigns of incitement and violence aimed at silencing and intimidating other journalists in Tunisia. 

It highlighted in a monthly report that attacks against journalists and photographers in June had increased, with the 18 attacks reported up from 13 incidents in May. 

According to Reporters Without Borders, Tunisia ranks 73rd in the world on the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Saied’s move to dissolve Parliament comes in response to nationwide protests over the past few days, prompted by Tunisia’s economic, political and health crises. 

Over the weekend, hundreds of Tunisians rallied in Tunis and other cities demanding the government step down after a surge in cases of the coronavirus disease COVID-19.

The protests turned violent when police used pepper spray against demonstrators, who threw stones and shouted slogans demanding Mechichi’s resignation.


Police shut Al Jazeera TV’s Tunis office

Al Jazeera television said on Monday that Tunisian police had stormed its bureau in the capital Tunis. (File/AFP)
Al Jazeera television said on Monday that Tunisian police had stormed its bureau in the capital Tunis. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 July 2021

Police shut Al Jazeera TV’s Tunis office

Al Jazeera television said on Monday that Tunisian police had stormed its bureau in the capital Tunis. (File/AFP)
  • “Around 15 policemen, some in uniform others in civilian clothes, entered our offices and asked us to leave,” Al Jazeera director in Tunis Lotfi Hajji said
  • The move came a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament

TUNIS: Tunisian police on Monday closed the office of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera television in the capital Tunis, its bureau chief said, amid political turmoil in the North African country.
“Around 15 policemen, some in uniform others in civilian clothes, entered our offices and asked us to leave,” Al Jazeera director in Tunis Lotfi Hajji told AFP.
He said the law enforcement officers gave no reason for the actions, but confiscated the keys to the premises and forced all staff to leave.
The move came a day after President Kais Saied ousted the prime minister and suspended parliament, following a day of street protests against the government’s handling of the Covid pandemic.
Hajji said the police told Al Jazeera staff “we are following orders.”
“What is happening is very dangerous, it is proof that freedom of the press is threatened. Today it is Al Jazeera, another day another media,” Hajji said.
AFP contacted the interior minister for further details but no immediate explanations were given for the closure of the outlet’s office.


Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology

Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology
Updated 26 July 2021

Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology

Asharq News partners with Newsbridge for AI archiving technology
  • News service to revolutionize user and work experience in broadcasting industry

RIYADH: Asharq News, the 24/7 Arabic-language multiplatform news service owned by Arab News’ parent company Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG), has partnered with the cloud-based platform Newsbridge.

The company will offer its signature multimodal indexing AI technology that leverages time-stamped metadata.

“Our partnership with Newsbridge provides our production teams with a fast and efficient means of searching and finding the shots they need, in English or Arabic. We look forward to leveraging AI-powered archiving technology to maximize multilingual search, accuracy, efficiency, and convenience,” said Kathey Battrick, senior manager, library and media management, at Asharq News.

The next-gen solution enables Asharq News to auto-index its archive via multimodal AI and scalable processing in the cloud. The technology will organize and merchandise media assets into collections, or smart folders, that automatically update when new media matches predefined criteria, future-proofing the news service’s archive collections in a structured manner.

“Asharq News’ track record as innovation leaders in the media sector makes our partnership all the more meaningful. By leveraging Newsbridge’s multimodal indexing AI technology, Asharq is setting a new standard to future-proof media asset management in the industry while also transforming end-user experience, offering next-gen search exploration and retrieval,” said Philippe Petitpont, CEO of Newsbridge.

Newsbridge’s AI-powered next-gen cloud platform is aimed at revolutionizing the user experience of managing and working with critical amounts of media assets, providing unprecedented access to content. The complete solution consists of media asset collections, multimodal indexing AI, cloud video tools, and the recently launched content monetization showcase and resale portal.

By taking into account facial, object and scene recognition with audio transcription and semantic context, the solution enables smart media asset management, be it media logging, archiving, or investigative research.

Asharq News is integrating Newsbridge’s AI archiving technology into its advanced digital infrastructure, which is unparalleled in the region in terms of studio equipment, broadcast technology, asset management and Internet connectivity.

Asharq’s cutting-edge features include a chroma key green screen, a Barco 2 LED screen, a fully virtual studio, as well as cameras that can be steered remotely from the control room, robotic cameras, a four-screen mobile video wall, an LDL screen that can run augmented reality, Pebble playout technology, LiveU file-sharing system and Megaphone TV viewer engagement platform.


TikTok launches new advertisements format

TikTok launches new advertisements format
Updated 26 July 2021

TikTok launches new advertisements format

TikTok launches new advertisements format
  • Spark Ads will make it easier for brands, creators to promote native content

DUBAI: TikTok For Business has announced the launch of a new advertisements format in the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey region.

Spark Ads is a native ad display format that enables brands and businesses to boost their own organic posts and amplify relevant content shared by the community.

Brands can also use two of TikTok’s popular features — Stitch, which allows users to pull together clips from other videos into their own, and Duet, where a new video can be created to play alongside existing videos from other users.

Shant Oknayan, general manager of global business solutions for TikTok in the Middle East, Africa, Turkey, and Pakistan, said: “With Spark Ads, brands can build long-lasting connections that are authentic and rooted in the community while also delivering sustainable and impactful business value.”

The most notable difference between regular ads and Spark Ads is that the latter allows advertisers to promote videos made by other creators with their permission.

Spark Ads also features additional functions such as allowing users to directly follow the account that created the video. (Supplied)

Spark Ads also features additional functions such as allowing users to directly follow the account that created the video and click on the music/singer name and music disc to go to the designated music page.

According to TikTok’s data, Spark Ads delivered a 58 percent increase on two-second view through rate (VTR) and 66 percent on six-second VTR, as well as a 70 percent rise in paid comments, 100 percent increase in share, and 222 percent in likes compared to non-Spark Ads.

Oknayan noted that the new hybrid ad format combined organic content and advertising that provided “businesses across the region with even more opportunities to drive deeper engagement and connection with their audience.”