In our increasingly globalized world, social media is king. The Japanese word for social media is SNS (Social Networking Services), and with smartphones being more ubiquitous than ever before, the SNS boom isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
Recently the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs of Communications conducted a survey to investigate how people use SNS and the reasons why. Participants in four countries (Japan, UK, U.S. and Germany) were asked which statements applied to SNS services they used, like this one: “I feel comfortable using SNS to post my own thoughts and information about myself”
The majority of Japanese participants (17 percent) placed this sentiment with LINE, which comes as surprise considering that LINE is most often used between people who already know each other — families and friends. Second was Twitter (7.7 percent), a steep drop of almost ten percent, followed by Facebook (5.3 percent) and Instagram (3.9 percent).
▼ LINE lets users chat in text form, call each other with voice and video, and even send cute stickers.
Why is the insular chat program LINE so well-used in comparison to Twitter and Facebook? It’s likely because Japanese users feel comfortable posting information on LINE because the other users in their community are people they already know from real life.
This is also probably why less than 20 percent of Japanese participants agreed that they “made new friends through SNS,” “found people to talk with there,” or “made new connections.” By contrast, all three of the other surveyed countries’ participants surpassed 30 percent.
So what do Japanese users typically use SNS for? The most popular uses for social media services in Japan according to responses were things like “getting news and information about current events,” “gathering information,” and even just “killing time.” With excess of 30 percent of surveyed users agreeing with these statements, Japan largely views social media as a means to passively read information rather than a place to hang out or meet people.
But why are most Japanese netizens so disinterested in using online social hubs to socialize? The survey results seem to infer that it’s due to a lack of interpersonal trust, especially when compared to other countries.
Here’s a summary of how much other countries agreed with the following statements:
“I can trust people I meet online”
UK: 68.3 percent
U.S.: 64.4 percent
Germany: 46.9 percent
Japan: 12.9 percent
“I can confidently discern between reliable and unreliable people that I meet online”
UK: 71.6 percent
U.S.: 66.7 percent
Germany: 57.1 percent
Japan: 20.6 percent
When asked about offline relationships too, only 33.7 percent of Japanese participants agreed they “can trust most people,” while other countries exceeded 60 percent. The other three countries also had more faith in their ability to discern between trustworthy people offline: over 70 percent were confident, while only 36.6 percent of Japanese participants were.
Reasons for not trusting Internet peers are widespread and cover a whole host of age ranges. Users cited issues such as accounts begging for online donations, the threat of having private information leaked, and the social agony of connecting with people online who you would rather ignore.
Besides, while sites like YouTube and Instagram can peddle the idea of becoming a celebrity through relatable updates, it’s unlikely to be worth the risks for users who prefer privacy.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that while this survey picks up trends, there will always be exceptions. Many users poured onto Twitter to assert their own faith in the friendships they’d made online, while others said that just because they didn’t trust social media with personal information, that didn’t mean they disliked their followers or didn’t enjoy talking with them.
Sources: White Paper from Ministry of Internal Affairs of Communications, Career Connections, RikuNavi NEXT Journal, Matome Naver
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