Queen Rania of Jordan has called on social media influencers to make use their popularity to do more good — even at the risk of losing likes and followers.
Speaking during Arab Social Media Influencers Summit, which was attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Queen Rania said social media has transformed from being a great tool for furthering charity into a realm for hate-speech and building barriers between one another.
“Hate-speech has increased and the world has become more divided, and eventually the walls started to rise higher until I started to wish if this (social media) world was never created."
She gave a presentation showing pictures of victims that shook the public over the past two decades, including one of the Palestinian boy Mohammed Al Durra who was shot to death by Israeli soldiers in the 2001. She explained that pictures could shake humanity and urge people to aid those in need, “but the shares and likes don’t change anything.”
She called on influencers to post more meaningful content that could achieve positive results, even at the risk of not earning as many likes and shares or drawing criticism or negative reactions from others.
“Be influential even if it costs you some of your popularity.”
She said widespread internet-use has changed the way social media is used and has led to an onslaught of information — some of it not credible.
Queen Rania said onus was on influencers and consumers of social media separate truth from "provocative rumours" and heated, emotional debates.
“(In the virtual world) we see the truth recede in the midst of the emotional and heated discourse and the provocative rumours," she said.
"Should we blame the medium and free ourselves, as users and influencers, from accountability? We owe a right to the truth by finding and spreading it."
The Jordanian Queen has quite the following online with more than 10.5 million followers on Twitter and some 4.9m followers on Instagram, where she posts photos of her diplomatic and humanitarian work among personal snaps from home life with her family.
She told of her experiences online as an example of how internet use has changed over the past decade.
“I will go back to the beginning, my first days on social media,” said the Queen, who joined Twitter in 2009. She said that soon after, she was asked to choose four words to deliver a message. “I said ‘bring down the walls’.
“I hoped that this open (virtual) space could change the world. I saw in it a chance to communicate without complexities (or stereotypes), especially the ones we Arabs have suffered from since September 2011.”
While social media still enables humanitarian initiatives to cross “millions of miles”, she said people have since transferred their “walls” into it.
“We hoped that social media would change our world, but unfortunately change had to start from us.”
Queen Rania said that rather than blaming the medium, social media users should invest their time seeking truth behind news published online.
“The truth deserves that you spend your precious time pursuing it.”
In its third year, the summit, organised by Dubai Press Club, brought together a number of celebrities and social media influencers who held panel discussions to share their experiences.
Social media influencers have come under increased scrutiny as late with the UAE introducing rules to regulate the booming business.
This year, the National Media Council made it mandatory for influencers who make money from promoting brands and businesses to obtain a media licence similar to those that magazines and newspapers acquire from authorities.
The council took this further in October, when it issued a set of guidelines that governed social media advertising - including paid and sponsored posts from influencers, ensuring that such posts are clearly marked as promotional.