After my eight day trip to Istanbul, Turkey with no access to Twitter and YouTube, I began developing this scenario in my head of what would happen if the Jordanian government shut down social media sites?
For many Jordanians access to the internet and social media sites is vital. According to a 2013 Spring Pew Global Attitudes Survey 38 percent of Jordanians own smartphones and Jordan ranks second in the Arab world for internet usage with 47 percent. Along with increased access to smartphones and the internet more than half are between the ages of 18 and 29.
Overall in this patriarchal society, more women rely on social media than men. Possible reasoning for this trend could be linked to cultural norms of curfews for girls.
Having the experience of missing my 11 pm curfew and watching other women in my host family arrive home late, I can honestly say the curfew restricts women from leaving the home. Many women are required—either by their fathers, brothers, or societal norms—to be home around 10 pm every night. So, what’s a girl to do with this time home at night? –Facebook, What’s App, and the internet can keep them entertained for hours.
If you look at my first few conversations with women at the University of Jordan, they often use their social media sites for connecting with friends, boyfriends, and—sometimes—following news. In addition, I have noticed for Jordanian girls peer mentors in my study abroad program they do not attend most events that take place past dark. Meanwhile, the male peer mentors are not restricted by a curfew and can stay out late for these events.
For women individual freedoms are based on what societal pressures, but on social media sites women have the ability to express themselves. Posting, sharing, statusing, and chatting are just the tools they use to achieve a different level of cyber-independence from social norms.
In another few posts, I will look more closely at how women perceive themselves and how other’s perceive them on social media. How are they representing themselves online? How do they express their political, religious, or preferences? What do ‘likes’ on Facebook say about women’s preferences or attitude towards social media usage?