QF students discuss positives – and negatives – of self-expression on social media
In today’s world, social media platforms have become important tools of communication, allowing young people to voice their opinions, beliefs, and views, while freely exchanging information and ideas. But at what cost?
Being exposed to social media from a young age has taught me that everything I say, do, or post will have an impact and consequences
“Being exposed to social media from a young age has taught me that everything I say, do, or post will have an impact and consequences,” says Sara Abdul-Razzak, a student at Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), a Qatar Foundation (QF) partner university.
“Social media has made me more cautious of how I present myself to other people. It’s very intimidating when you realize that these platforms allow people – either those who know you, are acquainted with you in real life, or are complete strangers – a lot of access to that certain, very limited representation of who you are as a person,” says Abdul-Razzak.
According to the GU-Q student, while she started using social media at a young age, she believes there should be an age requirement – either 16, 17, or 18+, depending on the platform.
Social media has made me more cautious of how I present myself to other people
“I’m a firm believer in freedom of expression, as many of my classmates are. However, I fully acknowledge its limitations and completely respect it. Freedom should never be absolute because that simply violates the essence of this concept by being a weapon that harms others rather than a tool that is utilized for the betterment of society.”
Fatima Al-Thani, a student at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q), another QF partner university, explains how social media has given her a voice.
“Social media has allowed me to be myself and express my own views,” she says. “However, it was not always like that. I had moments where I believed that my voice did not matter, or it had no sense of value.
“Discovering who I am and allowing myself to express my differences makes me feel like I have gained a voice, even when it feels like my opinions and thoughts won’t go anywhere beyond my social media pages. If there is an important issue that I think we should talk about and start a discussion on, I do not hold back.”
Words travel fast, especially in the virtual world. One button allows us to open up a free space to interact with one another, and to express and discuss local and global issues
Al-Thani stresses that social media platforms are also an effective way to discuss local and global issues, saying: “Social media allows open space for freedom of expression through many different approaches. Words travel fast, especially in the virtual world. One button allows us to open up a free space to interact with one another, and to express and discuss local and global issues."
"There are other ways to do this. For example, art is a medium used for self-expression and for delivering important messages about advocacy, justice, equality, and social issues. Another approach is through capturing moments in time through a lens.
It is a matter of being able to be there to help and make people's voices heard
“I try to remain open-minded, to discuss different topics. It is a matter of being able to be there to help and make people's voices heard. What might seem like a small issue to one person might be a challenge for someone else.”
Al-Thani expresses her opinions because she wants to help others and challenge social norms. “For example, mental health and body image are two topics that resonate with me, and I want to be a voice to my generation and the coming generations.
“I want to emphasize the importance of recognizing mental health as a vital part of our lives and the way we treat ourselves and each other will create change for the better.”
However, Al-Thani concludes that while people in Qatar are mostly aware of the pros and cons of expressing their opinions on social media, it is important to think about the long-term impact of what is being said.
“People come from different educational backgrounds, cultures, religions, and upbringings, which has created a multidimensional society. There are many different approaches to how people express their own opinions and it is important to think about the intention and clarity of what is being put out on social media.”