My High School Group
Saudi Arabia has very rich culture and it owes so many cultural values from the history. Studying in a Saudi high school, the cultural richness of Saudi Arabia can be easily witnessed. Although study culture differs from one school to the other, but performance in academia is always held as a priority. In addition, studying is the main concern in most of the high schools. My high school is one of the prestigious high schools of Saudi Arabia. Consequently, it is a prevailing practice in my high school that students get popularity and respect if they are good in their academic performance and hence, it has become a cultural norm as well; moreover, religious, cultural and ethical norms are also very much intact in my high school and earn respect for anyone who is practicing these traditional values of rich Saudi culture.
Principally, the school day is dedicated to study. Students start their day early in the morning and follow the daily schedule of classes. The schedule and the academic teachings pose a challenge for all students and they are motivated to get admiration as our high school culture cultivates the habit that the punctual and studious students are always admired. Students take classes and work as a group, which facilitates us to help each other. If someone is strong in one subject then he may helps the weaker one. These group studies also results in building a culture of cooperation among students. Moreover, they extend their collaboration and assistance to other students who require any sort of help. Being in a Muslim country, importance of religion has been instilled in the culture of Saudi Arabia. Our high school culture reflects this richness and students often arrange healthy dialogues on religious topics to get to know what are the obligations inflicted on us in this regard. By doing this activity, we try to help those who are not much informed about various issues. It also plays its part in promoting this cultural ideology and those who are practicing good ethical and moral aspects of Islam are given reverence. The vast majority of the students always acknowledge the elementary tenets of Islam. However, our high school culture also promotes good relationships among individuals who have different backgrounds or beliefs. Due to this realization, in effect, there is diversity but as well as harmony in the community culture of our high schools.
Thanks to the study group, most of the students have also made fine friendships with each other. Any class or ethnic differences are reasonably avoided among the community members. They greet each other whenever and wherever they meet and enjoy a superior level of trust among them. They are also usually concerned about the health and physical wellbeing of their colleagues, and their relatives as well. Since family ties are always given much precedence in Saudi culture, it has also been reflected in our high school group. Each one of us has made good relationships with the families of our school group. The whole group tries to be compassionate and considerate to the families of each member and show them respect they deserve. This has also resulted in further strengthening the relationships among us.
Apart from studies, one of the topics of discussion among the school group is the future prospects and aspirations of each individual. We discuss about the structure of working environment and kind of jobs or work occupations that one would like to choose in future. The expertise and skills of our colleagues are also relevant topics of discussion. The group also likes to converse about the interests of their colleagues. As a group, we love to participate in sports and soccer is the most recognized game among our colleagues. All these activities help us to engage with each other and give us a good cultural learning experience not only at cultural stratum but also on educational or intellectual forefronts.
The relationship of our high school group is not only restricted to studies, school activities or sports but we are also keen to arrange hangouts in outdoors. The participation in the various efforts put together by the expatriate community is also somewhat encouraged as we try to promote cultural harmony in our high school as well as in the local community.
In addition, members of the group share ideas about their experiences of using social networks in the virtual world of internet. Internet helps us to remain connected with each other and with the outside world and paved us the way to understand different cultures and traditions. However, one needs to have a realization of the associated responsibilities using the internet and is supposed to keep in mind the social and cultural bindings of our society. In this regard, a survey interviews has been carried out to understand the positives and the negatives of the internet and/or social networks usage and it tried to indentify the impact of online community groups on developing one’s cultural insight and the personal life itself. The questions asked from the community are significantly an attempt to assess the noteworthy effects of involving yourself in online communities of Saudi Arabia. The questions were kept open-ended and the classification of any effect as positive or negative is based on the perceptions and opinions of the community itself, and to be precise, it is based on how these effects are perceived by the interviewees.
According to the field notes and the responses of eight interviewees, the most significant positive impact of participation in online networks and community groups, is to change them to more open-minded individuals in their thoughts, dialogues, expressions and conversations. As said by one of the interviewee, on elaborating how he became open-minded, is that: ‘Online networking educated me to understand others and to accept others as well’.
Another important prospect of participating in online networking, designated as positive effect by interviewees, is that participants are becoming more aware and more careful of their surroundings. According to an interviewee, ‘online networking participation made me aware how to better deal with people. Before participation in online community groups, I used to feel inhibited but now, I am less inhibited and better able to predict other behaviors after having a conversation with them.’ Yet another effect of online social networking, rendered as positive effect, is that it enabled them to realize and know more about their own personality. This self-realization effect, expressed by an interviewee in his own words, as ‘I usually tend to consider myself a mature guy who can understand the society quite well. My online social experiences, however, helped me to know that I am actually less informant about so many societal dissimilarities and I have realized now that I overestimated myself’.
Talking about the negative effects of online networking, the serious effect that is consistent with the responses of all the conducted interviews is that it is making the participants less outgoing and reducing their physical activities. All the interviewees reflected that, after being active on social networks and community groups, they are spending more time at home and thus affecting their outgoing patterns. ‘Our school group used to meet personally every weekend, but now, we interact and converse with each other at an online-community group and thereby reducing our meetings on weekends’. Another interviewee elaborated this phenomenon in his words as: ‘I used to participate in different sports activities daily but with the increase usage of internet and my activities on social networks I am now less punctual’.
Summarizing this discussion on positive and negative effects of using online networking and social communities’ usage, most of the results are consistent with the pioneer studies conducted in relevance to this subject. On the positive effects, Sherry Turkle highlighted in her book that online participants are more open-minded and flexible (Turkle 24). On the negative effects, Howard Rheingold warned that online communities could take away users from their real life families and friends (Rheingold 19).
This study indicates that users of online networking forums and communities, in addition to growing self-realization and confidence, have become more aware of the cultural and societal variations of their surroundings, less inhibited, and more open-minded in their views and thinking towards others. Several negative effects are also highlighted but, according to the overall response of the interviewees, the number of positive effects outweighed the number of negative effects.
In general, it can be stated that the use of online social networking and communities are going to do good to Saudi culture and society in future and will help in the country’s advancement. To disregard the negative impacts, it is required to educate and increase awareness among the community. The high school groups, by joining hands with teachers, can play their role to spread the message and to highlight the religious and moral commitments of the people. Teachers could also invite the parents of community group/interviewees to talk about the positive and negative effects of using online social networking forums and communities. Finally, by abiding to the religious and cultural norms and traditions of the Saudi society, we can greatly influence and educate people to make the right choices for them.
Graff, G., Birkenstein, and C. "They Say / I Say: The Moves that Matter in Persuasive Writing". W. W. Norton & Company. (2007).
Rheingold, H. “The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier”. MIT Press: Cambridge. (2000): 19.
Turkle, S. “Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet”, Simon and Schuster: New York. (1995): 24.