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Israel: Teenage Girls Usage of Mobile Phones for Dating

Hiyam Hijazi-Omari and Rivka Ribak wrote a paper called “Playing With Fire: On the domestication of the mobile phone among Palestinian teenage girls in Israel”. In their research, they analyzed mobile phone practices among Palestinian teenage girls in Israel. The Paper constructs a detailed account of mobile phone use among Palestinian Israeli girls who, at the time of the fieldwork (2003-2006), used mobile phones given to them by their illicit boyfriends, unbeknownst to their parents.

danah boyd writes on the Shift6 blog:

Palestinian boys give their girlfriends phones for the express purpose of being able to communicate with them in a semi-private manner without the physical proximity that would be frowned on. At the same time, girls know that parents do not approve of them having access to such private encounters with boys – they go to great lengths to hide their mobiles and suffer consequences when they are found out. While the boys offered these phones as a tool of freedom, they often came with a price. Girls were expected to only communicate with the boy and never use the phone for any other purpose. In the article, Hijazi-Omari and Ribak quote one girl as expressing frustration over this and saying “I did not escape prison only to find myself another prison.” These girls develop fascinating practices around using the phone, hiding from people, and acquiring calling cards.

No doubt mobile communications technology is enabling teens in the Middle East to bypass cultural norms by providing them with access to private communication channels. More examples:

    - BBC article on usage of Bluetooth in the UAE for guys sending private notes to girls in public.
    - Previously posted on GVO, Adnan Gharabiya‘s research on Bedouin-Israeli teen usage of IM.

4 comments

  • Interesting article, Gilad. In Morocco, (and presumably elsewhere in the Arab-speaking world) I noticed many girls (usually veiled)in the cybercafes who type as quickly on the Arabic keyboard as on the French, and who chat online with men from the Gulf. I recall one girl in particular who was always in the cyber cafe whenever I went there. These girls are seeking relationships -prefereably marriage- with men they perceive as rich who can take them away from their situations at home. Though their chat platform is in itself private, the fact that many of them use headsets to talk to these men means that they have to negotiate these interactions between the public and private realms -and you can be sure that they make a huge effort to go to a cyber cafe far from their neighborhood and possible acquaintances, even if it means it costs a lot more to be in that part of town.

    I wonder if other Arab and Muslim countries experience this same phenomenon of the cell phone dating system?

  • It’s always nice to see technology used to get around oppression and tyranny.

  • I find this article confusing and quite pointless. Are we talking about mobile phone use amongst unruly teenagers or grown-ups? And so Arab teenagers use mobile phones to break the gender barrier and communicate, so what? You think this is funny? Have you made yourself acquainted with the culture before drawing the OH! Expression of bewilderment on your face? Maybe you’ll find the love letters discreetly exchanged between lovers in 18th centuries Europe quite funny as well….

    And I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go get a life?

  • startrek: The research article describes regular Palestinian teenagers who use mobile technology to navigate across cultural barriers. It is fascinating to see how gender roles and privacy are enhanced by this type of technology. As a culture-technology researcher, the implications of this type of user scenarios are fascinating!

    The anthropologists who wrote the article are very familiar with the local culture. Check out their websites before making false claims.

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