By Maryam Al Shawab
Imagine this: You are scrolling through one of your social media feeds and notice post after post of married Khaleeji couples sharing their daily lives as husband and wife via video, or posting affectionate photos of themselves together. Before you know it, you get curious and start reading the comments people have written.
As you read, you discover that there are those who find the pair “cute” and “#couplegoals”. Some even go as far as to warn them against the evil eye (jealousy). But, others comment on how “cringey” they are, and at some point you even see the word aib (shameful) thrown around.
Is it truly aib, though?
After all, we do live in a time when we all share so much of our lives online, so would it not be natural for married couples to do the same? Of course, their posts would have to be within the limits of decency, but sharing aspects of their lives together surely cannot hurt.
Or can it?
We all remember the outrage Emirati TV personalities Mashael Al Shehi and Ahmad Khamis’s engagement party videos caused on social media last May. In the videos, they were seen dancing and embracing during their engagement celebration. Soon after, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat were all filled with people reacting to the couple’s engagement party clips.
There were those who believed that posting those gestures on social media is against our culture and traditions. To them, such behavior should be private and displayed between relatives and close friends only, and not shared with the general public. Meanwhile, others defended them and believed that they had done nothing wrong, and that they should not have received negative backlash for sharing their celebration online.
“Couples sharing their experiences online can also have a positive impact on society, especially when they discuss the struggles they face in their marriages.”
The fear of changing traditions because of social media is understandable. Couples sharing their relationship online can give rise to new issues in society. For example, it can encourage behaviors of showing off, and even create competition between couples. It can also raise the expectations of what a happy marriage should look like.
But couples sharing their experiences online can also have a positive impact on society, especially when they discuss the struggles they face in their marriages. This is something that is not talked about often, or enough, in Khaleeji societies because many consider it aib, or taboo. An example of a couple that is breaking this taboo is Kuwaiti social media influencer Ascia Al Faraj and her husband Ahmad Al Balushi.
In December 2018, they uploaded a video on YouTube discussing the struggles of marriage, as part of their new series titled, “The Hard Stuff”. In its first episode, they discuss the issue of gender roles within marriage. This relates to Arab societies, in which it is traditionally expected of the husband to be the breadwinner while the wife takes care of the children.
Ascia and Ahmed, however, both share the responsibility of raising their children. In the video, Ascia mentions that, “It took two people to make a child, so it’s going to take two people to take care of a child.”
Another couple who are having a similar influence is Emirati couple Khalid Al Ameri and his wife Salama Mohamed. They use humor on their Instagram videos when they act out the disagreements that occur between them. They show the audience that despite those disagreements they still love each other, and that married life does not have to be perfect in order to be successful.
As for Mashael and Ahmad, instead of looking at the negative side of their social media presence, we should concentrate on the positive influence it can bring. According to an interview with The National, Mashael’s mahr (money gifted by the groom to his bride in Islam) was only half a dirham. This sets a great example in the Gulf, a part of the world where high mahrs continue to form a marriage hurdle to many suitors, to the extent that it has become an issue that is discussed region-wide. On top of that, Ahmad is an orphan who is trying to bring hope to other orphans by showing them, through social media documented experiences, that it is possible to marry someone outside the orphanage.
Though many people have strong opinions against couples on social media, we cannot deny that social media couples can play an important role in bringing awareness to issues that have not yet been fully addressed by society. Therefore, instead of assuming that they are changing or breaking traditions, we should think about how they can be improving society.
The views of the authors and writers who contribute to Sekka, and the views of the interviewees who are featured in Sekka, do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Sekka, its parent company, its owners, employees, and affiliates.
Maryam Al Shawab is a 22-year-old Emirati writer. She is one of the winners of the Oxford University Press Story Writing Competition in 2018.