Online community support groups

Regulations affecting the refugees in Jordan are subject to change and can be vague on multiple issues, such as the refugee access to secondary school education, as well as the job market of some industries. Members of refugee and migrant communities came to use WhatsApp and Facebook groups effectively to offer each other help and support under this uncertainty. Refugee communities used social media in the following ways:

  • • Finding information about nationality-specific opportunities such as scholarships, courses and professional training in Jordan and abroad
  • • Connecting with others who live in nearby areas and asking for opinions about moving to live in parts of the city' of which they had little prior knowledge to assess whether there is an acceptance of newcomers among the locals inhabiting an area in which they are interested and the availability of jobs and transportation.
  • • Access to information on financial support from local institutions for projects and business ideas
  • • Exchange experiences with civil society' organisations and recommendations for trusted charities
  • • Sharing freelance job opportunities, as well as paid volunteer positions.

As a result, these social media groups complement the work of non-profit civil society' organisations and fill the gaps in the outreach efforts of these organisations. They act as a more trusted source of information in some cases due to personal affiliations and the shared experiences of the group members. In spite of the many advantages of social media in this critical context, risks and threats develop as social media platforms themselves grow and offer more possibilities.

Cyberbullying, harassment and national values

In June 2019, Netflix released a series titled Jinn, revolving around a group of high school students who come in contact with supernatural creatures. Based in the capital Amman, with back and forth scenes in Jordan’s most popular tourist landmark, Petra, Jinn was marketed from the time of its early development stages as a Jordanian production and the first Arab world-centred Netflix series.

Unfortunately, the series was met by an overwhelmingly negative response and criticism which was translated into petitions demanding the relevant authorities take measures against it (“Netflix’s first Arabic original” 2019). Jordanian social media networks were swamped by posts about Jinn, with the majority accusing the series of delivering an “inaccurate” representation (Nahhas 2019) of the Jordanian way of life.

The series included scenes showing illegal substances consumption among teenagers, the crossing of what the traditional society considers to be “red lines” for premarital relationships, as well as the use of slurs throughout the season. Put together, these resulted in a broad debate (Robinson 2019) online on whether a series produced and filmed in Jordan, in which Jordanians are acting, should in fact, reflect the reality of Jordanians, or if it has the space and right to do otherwise and represent only a certain narrative, class, group, or a lifestyle.

Some of the questions posed in online discussions included why did the first series of this kind show a group of a very specific socio-economic status. Jinn features attendees of a private school with good standing, with their personal choices unaffected by considerations of local “norms” and tribal affiliations; a “luxury” unattainable to most. They also speak a mixture of English and Arabic, something that is associated with the upper classes. However, in more constructive conversation threads, social media users seemed to agree that the storm caused by the series highlighted the divide in the different parts of society. For some, if not most, economic class and ethnicity determine the ability of individuals to make private life and future-related decisions.

Online “stalkers” of actors and actresses who starred in the series left thousands of shaming and threatening public and private messages and comments on the social media profiles of the starring team. Prince Ali of Jordan, a member of the royalty particularly close to youth because of his support of sports and cultural activities, became involved in the controversy by releasing a statement in the form of a Facebook status that addressed the social media attack on the participants, arguing that the series is not a “documentary”, does not advocate for violence and therefore should not be subject to attacks as such.

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