Social Media Influence on the UAE Political Processes

Conclusion

To conclude the study above, we started this study aiming to find out how the social media affects the communication strategy of political leaders in the UAE, and through our research we found out that during this current era where a huge number of people, especially the youth are active on the social media, political leaders in the UAE and elsewhere must reach out to them through the social media to communicate, send their message or even influence them.

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Ignoring such a powerful platform like the social media could have negative implications as was the case in the Arab spring where the leaders of some Arab countries underestimate the role and the power of the social media amongst the youth. Therefore, in their communication strategy, political leaders are now aware that they must reach out to the citizens through the social media.

In our research, we stated two hypotheses. The first one was that the social media made political leaders closer to the citizens and more accessible. The second one was that political leaders appear to be more visible and transparent through social media on the national and international scene.

In order to conduct the analysis and test the stated hypotheses, we used different methods, among which the method of political discourse took the central place. This method allowed us to investigate the subject of our research using the political interactions. Due to the fact that the political interactions are the kinds of the communication with the public, they are closely related to the functioning of the social media. In our analysis, we relied on the method of political discourse because we considered it the appropriate method for the determination of the extent of the influence of the social media on the political process. In particular, we tried to evaluate the interconnection of the social media with the brand image creation and maintenance. We also used the case study approach for the data collection, because it allowed us to get the insight into the background of the political issues.

Along with the relatively low cost, this research method was useful for the collection of the different political views. We used the collected data as the input in the meta-analysis as the statistical tool for the estimation of the “effect size”. In addition, the content analysis of the tweets on His Highness Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed’s account helped us to determine the nature of his interactions with the public.

The results of the survey and interviews provided us with the set of qualitative data, which were further processed to obtain the public opinion and the broader vision of the researched problem. We also reviewed the relevant literature sources to argue the stated hypothesis. We focused on the studies on the public relations and social networking. Furthermore, we put the additional emphasis on the results of the previous research on the place of the social media in the political processes of the Arab society.

The results of the literature review allow us concluding that the social media is the new way of the political interactions, which has already become the integral part of the political campaigns. The background for using the social media for the political purposes can be defined in terms of its ability to target the broad audience and to interact with the millions of people easily.

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When it comes to the case of the UAE, we realize that it is a unique case in which the political leaders have their own powerful communication strategy with the public, which has been both powerful and effective historically. The UAE is a tribal society in its roots and the tribal system has always relied on the Majlis as the main channel of communication where they receive the citizens, have face to face interactions with them, and listen to their requests. Until today, and in the survey and deep interviews that were conducted in this study, it was evident that this form of communication is still widely popular, effective and preferred among the citizens. Having a presence on the social media will never replace the value and meaningfulness that comes with the face to face interactions.

One of the key insights from the interview is that social media has changed the way people perceive certain leaders, this was evident in some interviews particularly when they spoke about the case of AB Zayed, of whom they always had a formal image normally seen through the traditional media forms, but as they followed him on twitter and engaged in conversations with him they got to see the real side of him, a part of his personality which was evident to the public through his interactions online and so the image that they held slowly changed to another one that seemed more natural, authentic and real, made him more popular amongst the citizens as they felt that he was closer to them now as a leader.

Many agree that the social media as a platform has definitely added a new kind of proximity between the leader and the public, this only proves that the significance of this new platform cannot be ignored because it reaches a wide number of audiences simultaneously anywhere and from everywhere, especially the younger generation who are known to be most active on such platforms. Such audiences could be influenced through such platforms. regardless of whether its negative or positive it does provide the users with proximity, and gave the citizens a sense that the leaders are very reachable.

We conducted the content analysis of the tweets posted by Abdulla Bin Zayed, the UAE influential leader and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates. The reason for analysing the content of his tweets is explained by the fact that the number of his followers exceeded 1 million, making him the most popular Foreign minister in the world in terms of his interaction with the public.

Besides, his Tweeter account has been interesting in the context of our research due to the fact that he is one of not many political leaders, especially in the Arab world, who is so active on the social media. His tweets are extremely conversational in nature making his personal chat with the other foreign leaders accessible to the broad public. His account is rather active with 5.8 posted tweets a day. Moreover, his tweets usually touch upon his personal life and hobbies as his posts are mostly about his travels and his views on the different events around the Globe.

The results of the survey allowed us to obtain the public opinion on the researched problem. We asked people a number of questions related to the place of the social media in their life, their favourite social media platforms as well as their way to interact with the politicians. The collected data helped us to reveal the trend in the sphere of political interactions in the Arab society. The majority of the respondents answered that they had the experience of communication with political leaders.

However, the most of them were involved into the face-to- face communication, and only 17 of 65 respondents, who had such kind of experience, used the social media as the way of the political interaction. According to the results of the survey, Instagram is the most favourite social media platform in the United Arab Emirates. In spite of the fact, that the popularity of the social media platforms has increased dramatically during the recent years, people still prefer the conventional communication with the political leaders.

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The results of the interviews allow concluding that people in the United Arab Emirates like the social media and many of them follow the political leaders. However, they admit that they use such platforms to get the information about the opinion of the leaders on the social and political events but they consider the face-to-face interactions much more effective.

The review of the books on the social media and political communication allows making a conclusion that the Internet and information technologies have the substantial impact on the political process. The development of the new communication systems facilitates the breakthrough in the way people interact with the political leaders. The increase in the Internet access supports this trend and we expect that the role of the social media will rise in the subsequent years.

It should be mentioned that the rapid dissemination of the digital ways of communication creates the potential risks. One of them is that too much visibility may become detrimental to the users. We consider that the social media can potentially influence the social reality and political process but it is weak in influencing the public opinion on the social matters. Thus, too much emphasis on the social networking can be destructive for the political campaigns and will hardly be able to persuade the public in the importance of the reforms or the change of the political course.

Summary

The research conducted by us was aimed at the determination of the extent of influence of the social media on the political process in the United Arab Emirates. In particular, we tried to evaluate its affect on the communication with the political leaders. We focused on the online communication and the social media platforms. In order to collect the qualitative data, we used the survey and interview methods.

The results were processed statistically in order to determine the “effect size” of the collected data. The information obtained allowed us concluding that people in the United Arab Emirates like social media and are rather active in using the popular platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. We asked the respondents to give their opinion on the preferable way of communication with the political leaders. According to the survey and interview results, the majority of people consider the traditional face-to-face interaction much more effective than online communication.

At the same time, we can state that Internet and digital communication systems become more powerful ways of interaction and the revealed trend supports the argument for the strengthening of the social media influence on the political process.

The results of the literature review are also presented in the research paper. The review of the books on the relevant topics allowed us obtaining the insight into the nature of the problem and getting the opinions of the different scholars.

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We analyzed the problem in context of the historic development of the Arabic society and tried to explain the modern trends in relation to the conventional norms and traditions prevailing in the United Arab Emirates.

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