Social Media

Penetration of platforms like Snapchat and Instagram has leveled off over the past two years in the Arab countries in the study. Twitter has continued its decline, and Facebook has rebounded in a few countries.
More respondents use Facebook and WhatsApp than any other social media platforms, as they are cited by about two-thirds of all nationals—much higher than penetration rates for Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat. This pattern has been stable in recent years, although use of Twitter has dropped significantly among Arab nationals since 2014 and is now at only one in five. Use of other platforms remains stable or rose in the same time period. Notably, Instagram use rose more than ten-fold from 2013 to 2018, though the increase from 2018 to 2019 was just 5 percentage points. Facebook’s popularity rose 12 percentage points in the past year but is still down 15 points from 2013. 

While use of Facebook among all nationals has increased over time due an overall increase in the number of internet users since 2013, Facebook use among internet users has actually declined over time.
Use of Facebook and WhatsApp vary little by age or education, but younger internet users are almost two to nearly four times as likely as the oldest internet users to use Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter (Instagram: 60% 18-24 year-olds, 45% 25-34 year-olds, 30% 35-44 year-olds, 17% 45+ year-olds; Snapchat: 40% 18-24 year-olds, 29% 25-34 year-olds, 18% 35-44 year-olds, 8% 45+ year-olds; Twitter: 21% 18-24 year-olds, 21% 25-34 year-olds, 19% 35-44 year-olds, 14% 45+ year-olds).

Use of marquis social media platforms also rises markedly among more educated internet users (Instagram: 13% primary or less, 19% intermediate vs. 44% secondary, 48% university or higher; Snapchat: 8% primary or less, 8% intermediate vs. 30% secondary, 28% university or higher; Twitter: 1% primary or less, 5% intermediate vs. 20% secondary, 25% university or higher).
Looking at Facebook-owned platforms, Facebook and WhatsApp are used by more internet users than Instagram or Facebook messenger.

Facebook penetration varies widely across the region—from nine in 10 Egyptian internet users to just one-third of Qatari users—but it has dropped in every country except Egypt since 2013, most notably in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and the UAE. An uptick in Facebook penetration in a few countries since 2018—in Qatar, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia—is possibly driven by gaming options added to the platform in early 2019, which have drawn some new users to Facebook and encouraged some erstwhile users to return (TechCrunch, 2019).

Twitter penetration varies widely—ranging from six in 10 Saudis to only 4% of Tunisians—and rates have dropped in every country since 2013. Of note, though, there’s evidence of a comeback for Twitter in Saudi Arabia after a steep decline between 2015 and 2016.

Snapchat grew in popularity in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia from 2018 to 2019 but declined in Qatar and the UAE in the same period. Snapchat use is highest in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.



Users of major social media platforms tend to have more followers and friends on Instagram and Facebook than on Twitter and Snapchat, according to respondents’ estimates. Tunisians, Lebanese, and Qataris report the most followers and friends across social media platforms, while Saudis report the fewest.

The number of friends among Facebook users has risen since 2016 in every country, in some countries dramatically (Lebanon: 200 in 2016 to 550 in 2019; Egypt: 100 to 300; Qatar: 100 to 250; UAE: 100 to 245; Tunisia: 332 to 368; KSA: 60 to 80; data not collected in Jordan in 2016).

Men report having more followers and friends on major platforms than do women (Facebook: 441 men vs. 280 women; Instagram: 370 men vs. 300 women; Twitter: 150 men vs. 100 women; Snapchat: 100 men vs. 80 women).

Younger nationals report having more followers and friends on each major platform than those in older age groups (Facebook: 478 18-24 year-olds, 400 25-34 year-olds, 300 35-44 year-olds, 200 45+ year-olds; Instagram: 422 18-24 year-olds, 300 25-34 year-olds, 200 35-44 year-olds, 181 45+ year-olds; Twitter: 135 18-24 year-olds, 200 25-34 year-olds, 100 35-44 year-olds, 70 45+ year-olds; Snapchat: 100 18-24 year-olds; 90 25-34 year-olds, 80 35-44 year-olds, 80 45+ year-olds).


Internet users in Arab countries share a variety of content on social platforms but none more than online videos. Nearly half of internet users report sending, sharing, or posting comments about videos online in the past month, followed by three in 10 who posted about music and news, and about two in 10 posting about each sports, films, and TV programs. Twice as many internet users share about several topics now than did five years ago, including news. 

Online photo and video sharing vary widely by country. Half or more Lebanese, Saudis, and Emiratis share personal photos and videos online, while fewer nationals in other countries do the same. Nationals are less likely to share photos and videos they are in. Lebanon is the only country where more than half of nationals share personal images/videos of themselves. Tunisians and Qataris are the least like to share photos and videos of any kind online.

These data counter a common gender stereotype that women are less likely than men to share photos or videos of themselves online. While perhaps true in Jordan, not only are men and women in Lebanon, KSA, and Egypt equally likely to share photos or videos they are in, but women are more likely than men in Tunisia, Qatar, and the UAE to share images of themselves on social media.

On Facebook, the youngest users (18-24) are less likely than the oldest users (45+) to get or share news (getting news: 61% 18-24 year-olds vs. 74% 45+ year-olds; sharing news: 47% 18-24 year-olds vs. 54% 45+ year-olds). On Twitter, the youngest users are more likely to share personal photos or videos including ones featuring themselves (personal photos/videos: 33% 18-24 year-olds vs. 14% 45+ year-olds; photos/videos they are in: 18% 18-24 year-olds vs. 10% 45+ year-olds). 

Instagram is more popular among younger respondents, and younger Instagram users are also more likely than their older counterparts to get entertainment content, share personal content, and to keep up with social media influencers on the platform (get entertainment: 50% 18-24 year-olds vs. 37% 45+ year-olds; share entertainment: 43% 18-24 year-olds vs. 34% 45+ year-olds; share personal photos or videos: 53% 18-24 year-olds vs. 36% 45+ year-olds; view posts/stories from social media influencers: 34% 18-24 year-olds vs. 22% 45+ year-olds).


Arab nationals estimate they direct message single individuals twice as much as with groups. This differs from an almost 50-50 split in 2017 but is consistent with the pattern observed in the 2015 edition of this study.

Still, group messaging is common, used by nine in 10 direct-messaging users. Group messaging with coworkers and with groups around shared hobbies are common, especially in the UAE, Qatar, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia. Messaging with community service and volunteer groups is highest in the Arab Gulf countries surveyed. Fewer direct messagers belong to groups promoted by news organizations or companies.