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While Malaysians Are Social Butterflies, Japanese Are Online Loners

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The average Malaysian Internet user has 233 friends on social networks, which is the most in the world, according to interviews with nearly 50,000 online users in 46 countries by the research firm TNS in September. By contrast, the least social web users appear to be the Japanese, who count only 29 friends each.

The TNS study says that 69 percent of Malaysians and only 18 percent of Japanese online consumers use social networks on computers, which seems like quite a spread. (Compare that to 50 percent in the U.S.) The relatively small Japanese usage isn’t because everyone is accessing social networks on phones instead of PCs; TNS measures Japanese mobile social networking use at 15 percent.

TNS also finds that 52 percent of Chinese Internet users access social networks on computers (and 39 percent of them on mobile), with an average of 68 friends each. That high degree of usage but relatively low number of friends indicates “a culture that embraces fewer but closer friendships,” according to the study.

Most popular Least popular
Country Number of friends on social networking Country Number of friends on social networking
Malaysia 233 Japan 29
Brazil 231 Tanzania 38
Norway 217 South Korea 50

TNS also quantifies some of the difference in usage between growing online markets and more developed online markets:

  • 88 percent of online users in China have written a blog entry
  • 92 percent of online users in Thailand have shared photos online
  • In Latin America, the Middle East and China, users spend 5.2 hours on social networking per week, compared to 4 hours on email, while in “mature markets,” users spend 3.8 hours social networking and 5.1 hours on email. Users in Malaysia spend the most time on social networks, at 9 hours per week.

Some of the data indicates that developing market trends are in alignment with mobile usage. For instance, TNS says mobile users spend more time on social networking (3.1 hours per week) than email (2.2 hours per week). If you want to play with some of the data yourself, check out the visualizations here. (Note: The screenshot of the visualization I embedded above says Japanese users have 28 friends each, instead of 29 as stated in the rest of the materials. I don’t know why there is a discrepancy.)

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2 Responses to “While Malaysians Are Social Butterflies, Japanese Are Online Loners”

  1. Kyotocutie

    I wonder if some cultures have less “friends” online because they define “friend” differently. Some cultures may not feel it is necessary to friend everyone they know in the slightest. Some may prefer to friend everyone for fear of offending an acquaintance or missing a networking opportunity. Some may avoid friending anyone who they do not want to accidentally expose their private thought to.

  2. Not really surprising – from my own experience, the number of people spending their life doing nothing at social networks, goes down, and this makes me happy. India, Brazil, etc are new to this, this is why it’s so viral – as it was back in 2007 in the US or Japan. Now markets which have been connected to the web for at least 5 years, are moving towards quality, and people are using internet because they need it, and not because it’s new and unusual. The success of social networks is temporal – the number of users is limited, and with the speed it has now, it will very soon reach its limits. What came to my mind as I’ve been looking on the charts – most progressive web giants could also consider cultural differences now that internet is not solely English-speaking as the rate of interest may fall down faster than they think, and many local providers will be offering the same services.