When it comes to social networking, you might think that users in the UK, Australia or the United States would be the most active, but according to a study done by research firm TNS the most hardcore social networkers in the world actually reside in Malaysia. With the population of a mere 27 million, Malaysia has overtaken previous title-holders Australia, with the greatest number of social networking users and highest collective usage.
The average Malaysian social networker has 229 friends, which crushes the tech-savvy country of Japan with only 29 friends per user and demolishes the up-and-coming powerhouse China. Malaysians also spend a staggering nine hours per week on social networking sites, whereas Australians tweet, blog and Facebook for a paltry seven hours per month, and Americans only six.
One would assume that the clear winners in studies like this should have been countries like India or China due to their massive population base, but there are several other factors at play here. China’s online authorities still have quite a choke hold on their netizens with stringent content censoring and filtering, and while India’s social networking use is slowly on the rise, most of it is coming from limited smartphone usage.
Malaysia is quite a technologically advanced country in its own right, having their own space program and Silicon Valley-equivalent, ‘Cyberjaya‘. It’s this tech-centric culture and a ‘world beating’ attitude that means embracing social media comes naturally to its citizens. As a Malaysian, I’ve also had first-hand experience of our strong gaming culture and our love for open chat platforms, dating back to the days of mIRC and ICQ.
There are many reasons why Malaysians are so digitally savvy, but one in particular stands out to me. Any Malaysian kid will tell you that parents have rather strict control over their children: it’s all about study and hardly any social life, so one of the only ‘social’ things to do is to immerse ourselves in the online world. One might say that many young Malaysians were forced to embrace the digital space because that was the only way to stay sane.
So what can New Zealand learn from this? Well, to become a more digitally social nation it must start at the ground level. As a digital advocate, I believe culture changes start from within and will naturally extend. As New Zealanders, we are still in the process of developing our culture, a culture where we want to be world beaters, be the best, and encourage the adoption of new technologies. As digital thinking pervades more of our culture, the more ‘social’ we will become as a result.