Is technology eroding the Arab world’s social values?
Arab culture, long known for its generosity and emphasis on strong social bonds, has changed significantly
Arab culture, long known for its generosity and emphasis on strong social bonds, has changed significantly.
The concept of family used to encompass both immediate family members and members of the whole tribe. Inhabitants of a neighborhood, regardless of their social and financing standing, cared for one another and stretched a helping hand whenever someone is in need.
Al-Sharq daily investigates what has caused the deterioration in social bonds and family ties in Saudi society.
Many people blame technology and globalization for causing family disintegration and sowing the seeds of estrangement among members of the same family. Others say love and good values still exist, but perhaps not as strong or in the same way as before.
The simple past
Bosaleh, a man in his 70s, recalled growing up in a simple environment around honest people who made do with what little they had.
“Life used to be very simple, everything was clear and everyone was honest. Love was the dominant feeling in society and among all family members. We were a tightly-knit family; men left their wives and children alone at home for days to go to another city for work knowing that if there was an emergency, the neighbors would come to their rescue,” he recalled.
Citizen Wael Al-Humood said the fast-paced life most people live today prevents them from visiting one another and socializing.
“I strongly believe that life has not changed that much. There are still good people out there who will jump to help the needy,” Al-Humood said.
Nasser Al-Salim, another citizen, said most of the social traditions that are passed down from older to younger generations are still held in high esteem by the majority of people.
“Saudis are known for their deep love for their traditions and social heritage; they are proud of their history. The old traditions still exist though they might have changed a little as a result of technology, but they will never die out. Keeping up with technology and latest developments doesn’t mean we should abandon these traditions altogether,” he said.
In his opinion, technology should not be blamed for the disappearance of some good traditions. It is the young generation’s fault that these traditions died out because today’s generation has not protected their heritage.
Citizen Uhood Abdullah disagrees with those who say things in the past were better.
“Perhaps some families have problems and they are well-knitted ones but there are many examples of good families today. Good and evil exists at all times and eras; life is a combination of both. Optimism is the key; we should be optimistic about the future,” she said.
Shahd Al-Abdullah agreed. She said the same good qualities and characteristics the older generations cherished still exist today and can be seen in many villages and towns.
“Even if it is a café, it is still a place where the youth meet and have fun, just like their grandfathers met. Women still meet at cafes just like their grandmothers did,” she said.
Sociologist Fathia Salih said a person’s environment drives people to have certain traits and view social and human relationships from a certain perspective.
“Life isn’t what it used to be in the past. It’s very demanding today, but society is still as strong. Today’s circumstances are different than the ones in the past. What really matters is that the younger generation has a sound Islamic education and upbringing,” she said.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on June 13, 2015.