24 Oct 2023

As the event season kicks off in the UAE with the opening of Global Village, brands are on the hunt for innovative ways to engage with their audience on platforms like Instagram and TikTok. With Gen Z leading the charge in social media engagement, understanding their motivations behind participating in viral challenges becomes crucial.

Understanding the Challenge Phenomenon

Social media challenges have become a staple, especially on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, where influencers and teens alike partake in trending stunts. But what drives the youth, especially in regions like the UAE and Saudi Arabia, to engage in challenges that sometimes pose risks?

1. Social Pressure & The Role of Influencers

In the UAE and Saudi Arabia, where influencers have a significant impact on the youth, social pressure plays a pivotal role. Teens often feel the urge to participate in challenges that influencers promote, hoping to gain social acceptance or even a nod from their favorite online personalities. For instance, when Dubai RJ and Influencers Kris Fade, Preeti Malik took on the ice bucket challenge and nominates others, it creates a ripple effect, encouraging more to join in.

2. The Quest for Attention on Platforms like Instagram

With platforms like Instagram offering a stage for everyone, many teens seek attention and validation. They often innovate, taking challenges to the next level, hoping to stand out and get featured on popular pages or even recognized by influencers.

One such example is the yearbook trend where influencers like Sarah Malas, Bassma Mubarak & Maya Ahmed shared AI generated images of themselves which sparked their fans to do the same.

3. Entertainment & Curiosity Driven by TikTok Trends

The thrill of trying something new and the amusement derived from it is another reason teens participate. The Kiki Challenge in Dubai, for example, saw participants dancing next to a moving car, driven by the catchy beats of Drake’s song “In My Feelings.”

4. The Contagion Effect & The Spread of Challenges

Challenges spread like wildfire, especially when influencers with massive followings share them. The way these challenges are portrayed, especially on platforms like TikTok, can either encourage safe participation or risky behaviors.

The Way Forward

While the thrill of social media challenges is undeniable, there’s a need for awareness. If schools in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, along with influencers, can highlight the potential risks associated with certain challenges, it might make teens think twice.

As brands look to engage with Gen Z during events like Global Village, promoting safe and fun challenges can lead to positive engagement without compromising well-being.