Ali, who works for a contracting company in Tehran, told Al-Monitor that he spends more than six hours a day on Telegram. “At work, while commuting and even when I’m relaxing at home — I constantly have my cellphone in hand and am either communicating with friends or reading the latest news stories on the different Telegram groups and channels. I think with all the mental stress that exists today, it is impossible to browse through all the newspapers and news websites; Telegram gives you the headlines in a clear and concise way,” Ali said.
Some surveys suggest that the average person in Iran only spends two to 17 minutes per day reading, leading senior establishment officials to voice their concern. Sociologists believe the decline in time spent on reading is due to the increased amount of time people spend on social media networks.
Mozhgan, a Tehran-based food industry expert, told Al-Monitor, “I use Telegram about four to five hours a day to learn about the news and also to see how my friends are doing.” Mozhgan is fully aware that the news broadcast through Telegram is not always precise. He said, “Telegram hasn’t replaced newspapers, magazines or websites for me, because false information and rumors have many times been broadcast through social media networks in the context of news or [expert] analysis.”
Inaccurate news reporting is not the only problem that social media networks, and especially Telegram, are to blame for in Iran. The main problem is perhaps these messaging services’ impact on licensed media outlets. For instance, Telegram groups and channels have the ability to broadcast news without the usual restrictions and censorship placed on the licensed media. Problems arise when this creates uncertainty about the accuracy and precision of the stories in question.