Social media usage and entrepreneurial development amongst 18- to 25-year-olds in Hail, Saudi Arabia

  • Hattan Al-Yousef

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The recent transformation endorsed by the Vision 2030 development plan in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has instigated a negotiation of modern values and norms in a youthful conservative nation. The rise of social media usage in Saudi Arabia and specifically in Hail has enabled these negotiations due to considerable technological advancement and its adoption by a youthful nation where almost 72% of the population are below the age of 35. The Saudi social media scene has not only become a recognisable career path, driven by the vast economic and socio-cultural reform, but a space where intersections of a power dynamic is visible and complex.
Two main theoretical approaches have been adopted to examine and explore social media usage and entrepreneurial development. The first approach is Bourdieu’s work of field, habitus, and capital (1977, 1984, 1986) and more recent scholarly work on social, cultural, economic, and symbolic capitals. The second approach is informed by scholarship on presentational culture, new media, and social media studies. Although both theoretical approaches are from a western viewpoint, the experiences of Saudi youth provide new insight into the contextual negotiations between old values and norms and modernity in an era of development. In this qualitative study, the data will speak for themselves through the experiences and perspectives of social media users and entrepreneurs explored across an open-ended survey, focus groups and semi-structured interviews. While this work is focused on Saudi, it offers lessons and insights for other similar nations, or even for the west.
The study raises questions relating to how Hail’s young men and women who maintain old values will utilise social media platforms to navigate and negotiate their online identity into an online entrepreneurial identity. Furthermore, having a diverse sample for each method – for instance, influencers and micro-celebrities from both rural and urban backgrounds – enabled me to capture different dimensions of the same entrepreneurial process. This entrepreneurial process identified different identity constructions and identity performances and crosschecking these practices with Hail’s young men and women demonstrates the complex ways in which the Saudi social media entrepreneur can participate in and contribute to the attention economy in this new Saudi era.
Date of Award14 Nov 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SponsorsSaudi Arabian Cultural Bureau
SupervisorAlexandra Kolb (Director of Studies), Anita Biressi (Co-Supervisor) & Paul Rixon (Co-Supervisor)


  • Social media usage.
  • Conversion of Bourdieu’s Capitals.
  • Influencer and Micro-celebrity status
  • Digital natives.
  • Saudi Vision 2030 development plan.
  • Legitimisation of Symbolic capital.
  • Online entrepreneurialism.
  • Construction of Online Identity.
  • Authenticity.
  • Context Collapse.

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