After several days of anticipation, Snapchat users in Qatar are finally getting the chance to tell the rest of the world what life is like in the Gulf, thanks to the platform’s “Live Story” feature.
The story option, which the popular time-restricted photo-sharing app unveiled last June, highlights the best photographs and videos from Snapchat users living in selected cities around the world for 24 hours.
Along with Instagram, Snapchat is among the more popular social media applications in Qatar.
Because photos only last for 10 seconds, it is particularly favored by young Qatari women who rely on the app’s privacy to share pictures with friends, participate in public discourse and voice their opinions on popular issues.
To commemorate the day’s live story city, Snapchat releases special filters with characteristics of the cities involved.
Users tag their photos and videos with the designated filters in the hope of being selected by Snapchat to be featured on the story, which can reach audiences upwards of 25 million people.
Four distinct filters were released by the app today, including stamps, Arabic script and a cartoon version of the Corniche skyline, signaling “Doha life” as the Snapchat live story of the day.
Doha is the fourth city in the region to be featured in these live stories, two months behind Dubai.
However, not everyone was sold on the idea of the story feature. Over the past few days, some of Qatar’s more conservative residents have warned women here to tread carefully, asserting that participating in the Snapchat event could threaten a woman’s modesty.
Translation: “We don’t want any girl’s video on Doha Live because the people know that our women are covered and modest and that you’re much better than others…
A woman’s voice is private, let alone her face or anything else? You are representing an Islamic state, so represent it without your faces or voices; there are 10 million people watching you, and no one can handle that many sins.”
Others online exhortations included, “please girls don’t show them we are ‘free’ you will ruin the reputation of Doha;” “I believe it is unnecessary for women to appear and men goofing off. Show your respect as Muslims 1st & Qatari 2nd;” and “we don’t want to see any girl on Doha Life. Don’t embarrass us, this unacceptable.”
Several vocal female Qataris challenged these concerns, saying:
Speaking to Doha News about the current debate, Sarah Al Derham, a Qatari student pursuing her master’s in London, said she was excited for the chance to participate in the Snapshot story.
“It’s been such a shame and a shock to see that people who are bringing women down and asking them to not participate are (fellow) women themselves!
This has nothing to do with religion; Islam gives women their rights. It’s a matter of a person’s own cultural and tribal beliefs. Women need to participate because this is a privilege. That 10-second video that a woman posts can be worth more than what any man can say, and the ability to talk to millions of people at once shouldn’t be (something) that should only be given to men.”
Al Derham, who is currently working on a dissertation on the gendered usage and access to social media in the Middle East, conceded that local women with private social media accounts do tend to “goof around.
Nonetheless, they should be afforded the opportunity to “go out there and be good ambassadors for their country, the same way that people are asking men to go out there and say something educational or about the FIFA 2022 World Cup or the 2030 National Vision,” she added.
— Visit Qatar (@VisitQatar) June 15, 2015
Their posts range from proud to sarcastic to humorous:
If you go to Katara and start drifting in your Nissan, we will find you and we will hurt you. #Doha_Live
— عبدالله (@AbMS19) June 11, 2015
Nobody cares about your Ferrari, Bentley or bright cars. Please don't show off & use the platform to showcase our beautiful city #DohaLive
— f (@tamtoom_) June 11, 2015
Are you participating in today’s event? Thoughts?