New technology is dramatically changing the way in which Muslims in the Middle East pass their time in Ramadan. Social media is altering people’s pattern of behaviour during the holy month of fasting, which is normally seen as a period of self-reflection, discipline and abstinence.
The browsing habits of people in the Middle East indicates that 58 million more hours are spent on social media during the holy month watching videos on beauty tips to recipes, sports and TV series on Facebook and YouTube.
For Facebook, which also owns Instagram, and Google, which owns YouTube, the change in habit brings new opportunities to boost business in the region. Analysts and experts say that there is a real push for business in the region to capitalise on the surge in viewing time over the period.
The daily pattern of Ramadan is cited as an explanation for the increase. People generally stay up longer at night and have more free time, especially before iftar, the evening meal. Muslims also wake up for the morning breakfast known as suhur, before beginning their fast.
This translates to five per cent more time spent on Facebook’s platforms, or what is nearly 58 million more hours, according to Ramez Shehadi, Facebook’s managing director for Mideast and North Africa.
It’s not just Facebook that benefits. Ramadan is also the peak season for advertising in the region, as TV dramas and soap operas are said to experience a 151 per cent increase in viewership on YouTube according to Google.
This of course means more profit for new media. “Our revenue is a function of people’s engagement,” Shehadi said. “The more that they engage on our platforms, the more that advertisers want to be able to reach those that are engaging. That’s what drives our revenue.”
In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, views of sports videos jumped 22 per cent, travel videos by 30 per cent, and action games, simulation and video games by 10-20 per cent during the holy month. People also spend 27 per cent more time watching religious content on YouTube.