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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 secondMardin is known, in Turkey and abroad, as an historic site, with many historical buildings. It's also listed to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the top of the hill, in front of the Mesopotamia Flat Vally, Mardin is often presented by tourist pamphlets as a centre of tradition and old values. However, this city, just like many other places in Turkey and southeast Turkey, has changed quite a lot in the last 20 years. Right next to the old city, there is now a big, urban centre, with a lot of new modern cafes, new shops, and new buildings. And also, next to the new city, there is a new area, with a big shopping mall and a new airport.

Skip to 0 minutes and 44 secondsMost of the inhabitants moved to the new city, with its more comfortable lifestyle. This urbanisation process has also been associated with an expansion of education and employment for women. Women have much more visibility in public in the new city, where they attend the university, or they work outside. And also relationships between women and men have been slowly changing. And nuclear families have becoming more common than extended families. In this process of transformation, social media is playing a role. As explained in week one, scalable sociality includes a wide spectrum, from very private to very public social media. In Mardin, the new forms of private communications are the ones that wrought the most significant transformations.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 secondsDespite the current social change, Mardin continues to be a gender-segregated society, where premarital relationships are not allowed. However, young women and men make a massive use of the more private spaces of social media, such as Facebook chat, or WhatsApp, to develop romantic love and relationships. Young people can send to their beloved up to 600 WhatsApp messages a day, including pictures and voice messages, all outside of the gaze of their parents and older relatives. This simply was not possible before social media. Social media have become a place where the new, young generation secretly live experiences that are not allowed in the society.

Skip to 2 minutes and 19 secondsSocial media have also been used by women to have access to a wider network of people and friends, beyond the family network. For example, some female teenagers, who spend all their life at school and within the walls of their house, may have hundreds of Facebook friends, from all around the world. These radical transformations, made possible on private social media, are in stark contest to the use made of public social media. These reproduce, or even extend, traditional and conservative social norms. For example, mixed-gender groups of people that meet in the offline spaces of the town are very rarely portrayed on the public Facebook wall. Gender segregation is even stronger on the public Facebook wall than offline.

Skip to 3 minutes and 8 secondsFor the same reason, those women who are excluded from having a public presence online use social media with fake and anonymous profiles. They use images with faces of kids, landscape, or rather verses from the Koran, as a profile picture. Only their close friends know their real identities. But older members of the family and relatives don't. The society is changing. And social media are contributing to this transformation in two contrasting ways. They facilitate new and alternative relationships. But at the same time, they publicly reinforce traditional gender norms.

The impact of social media on gender in southeast Turkey

This video explores the impact of social media on gender in southeast Turkey. As anthropologists we also want to give you a sense of how these generalisations apply to particular individuals such as Zehra who you will meet in the next step.

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This video is from the free online course:

Why We Post: the Anthropology of Social Media

UCL (University College London)

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join: