Forrester Research have just released (expensive) reports on how many people in the US and in some European and Asian countries are using social media. Forrester has their own classification of different kinds of users – “creators” actually upload their own content, “critics” rate or review other peoples’ content or contribute to wikis and discussion forums (which could be said to be creating, really), “collectors” tag content and use RSS, “joiners” are active on social network sites, “spectators” read, listen and watch user-generated content, and then there are the “inactive”, who, well, aren’t using social media at all. Their overall conclusions are that there are less and less “inactives” – but also that Europeans are adopting social media at a far slower rate than Americans. This widget’s kind of fun to play with to see the differences:

Why do you think Europeans are so much slower? Americans had a head start on access to technology, but surely that’s evening out by now? I actually think a major reason is Europe’s language barriers, that effectively slice Europe up into many very small media ecologies. With only 4.5 million people speaking Norwegian, the tipping point is hard to reach in Norwegian social media – although more and more people are certainly using social media here in Norway. We have very little or no contact with other European countries’ social media – barely even with Sweden and Denmark.

Another possibility is that Viviane Serfaty was right, and that blogging is a peculiarly American form, akin to the diary-writing of the Puritans. For the Puritans, Serfaty wrote, working through your everyday and religious doubts, feelings and choices by writing about them in a diary was an ethical necessity and very spiritual work. In Scandinavian Lutheran societies, on the other hand, the population was taught to read the bible but writing was seen as unnecessary for peasants. Further south, European Catholics had a more direct relationship with God, in spoken prayer and hail maries and penances. I don’t know enough about religion to know whether this is a completely tenable theory (I mused about it here, though, on page 7), but it’s an interesting thought. Serfaty was writing about blogging in particular, but perhaps one could look at all social media as similarly confessional and personal and so such cultural differences might continue to hold true?

17 thoughts on “fun widget showing how many people are using social media in various countries

  1. Mathias Klang

    RT @jilltx widget showing how many people in different countries use social media -but why so slow in Europe?

  2. Bronwen Clune

    Interactive widget looking who is using social media across different countries.

  3. media140 Worldwide

    RT @bronwen Interactive widget looking who is using social media across different countries.

  4. Viktoria Disenvall

    RT jacoutoftheboxHow many people are using social media in various countries —

  5. Omer Rosenbaum

    I do not really think that you can compare Europe as a whole to the US or even have inter comparison between European countries. Sweden with its long tradition of journalism grasp blogging quite good while it is a little slower on social network and microblogging.
    On the other hand, I can say that Sweden as well as Israel that I know from living there, localized many social network platforms successfully due to the fact the they had a unique language spoken by no more than 10 million people worldwide.

  6. Ellen

    But remember that Scandinavia has a rich culture of autobiography, and especially hybrid forms of writing that merge fiction and autobiography, starting with writers like August Strindberg, Selma Lagerlˆf, Victoria Benedictsson, and Norway’s Knut Hamsun. And of course Ludvig Holberg’s essays and epistles from the early 1700s are highly personal and idiosyncratic–and very blog-like. There are other early modern examples, like Leonora Christine’s Jammers Minde. I think it would be wrong to imply that the Nordic countries are somehow more reticent about publishing personal, essayistic forms of writing than other national cultures. Hamsun, for example, wrote numerous essays that were published in the popular press, and he is by no means exceptional in this.

    I just gave a paper on Hamsun’s “performative biographism” this weekend, so this is a topic that’s very much on my mind right now. I do know that literature and social media are quite different things, but since you are speculating about broader cultural trends I thought it might be helpful for me to comment.

  7. Ken Leon

    jill/txt » fun widget showing how many people are using social …

  8. remotedevice

    RT @jilltxt widget showing social media behaviors by age, country, gender

  9. Noxi

    [fun widget showing how many people are using social media in various countries]

  10. Hege Folkestad

    On writing peasants:

    ‘In Scandinavian Lutheran societies, on the other hand, the population was taught to read the bible but writing was seen as unnecessary for peasants’.

    Jostein Fet, in his book ‘Skrivande b¯nder'(‘Writing farmers’), sums up 18th century (Danish-)Norwegian policy by saying that writing should only be taught (’til alle og enhver, end og de fattigste b¯rn’ – roughly translated: ‘to each and every one, even the poorest children’) when parents demanded and pupils read properly and knew their bible history. In spite of little entusiasm on the government side, and reluctance on farmer side (stylus, board, paper or ink had to be paid for by parents) he documents how a conciderable proportion of farmers still knew how to write, and how they left behind exchenged letters, diaries (‘chronologies’) and other material.

    In this, I assume that ‘farmers’ were probably better off than ‘peasants’, but then again, if I remember this correctly from school, the Norwegian categories do not correspond directly to those further south in Europe. Peasants were relatively fewer, and farmers were relatively poorer (especially in the west), often barely clinging on to a piece of land. Among them, my grandfather wrote down thoughts, incidents, social affairs, news etc in a ‘Chronologie’ that incidentally rings not unlike some blogs. No comments-function, though 😉 Would have loved to hear his response to my comments…

  11. Jill Walker Rettberg

    Thanks for the points about Scandinavian autobiography and personal essays, Ellen – and I love the term “performative biographism”, I had’t realised Hamsun wrote in that way. Serfaty was only writing about American culture, and my speculations about what I’ve perceived as Scandinavian slowness to adopt blogging and social media, and the skepticism to the confessional and personal style often seen in blogs, are highly speculative. It’s useful having these counter-examples.

    Hege, I’m not an expert on early Scandinavian literacy – I heard a talk by Arne Apelseth, who wrote his PhD (UiB, 2004) on “Den lÂge danninga : skriftmeistring, diskursintegrering og tekstlege deltakingsformer 1760-1840” – he said that Scandinavians became writing-literate a century after they became reading-literate, because the church saw an early need to teach people to read the bible but not to write. I haven’t read the whole dissertation, and it sounds as though it’s a little more complicated than what I gleaned?

    Sounds like looking for cultural reasons why Europe lags behind the US in social media is hard to do?

  12. Ellen

    Danish scholar Jon Helt Haarder more or less invented the term “performative biographism” and has links to most of his articles on his website here:

  13. IMAP | Daily Digest for August 31st

    […] Jeff Watson RT @jilltxt widget showing social media behaviors by age, country, gender [#]. […]

  14. eli bjørhusdal

    @BerntFlekke Ikkje akkurat det, men denne er litt fin

  15. Kristine

    Don’t we lag behind the US on most things? I often feel like that it takes a decade for trends from the US to reach these Northern shores, and about half the time for trends from the UK to do so. I know it’s an exaggeration, and the time lapse has decreased, and is still decreasing, due to globalisation, but if you look at social media, and especially blogs, that timeframe is not that far off. I remember Neil McIntosh wrote something like ‘in 2006, UK media finally disocovered blogs, only five years after our readers’ (just quoting from memory). 2000-03 was certainly when my UK friends got all blog crazy. Too my mind, 2008 was the year blogs really started to be recognised by mainstream journos and editors in Norway (of course, a few discovered that way earlier, but somehing seemed to shift last year: more editors and journos blogging, and with Twitter, around New Year/early 09, more and more media folks seemed to get that social media was about conversation.

    As for history’s impact on blogging culture there are certainly cultural differences, but I find Norwegian blogs to be much more confessional and personal than say UK blogs. Language may play a role in why Europeans were so slow here though, but if that’s the case it would be fair to assume that the UK was way ahead of the rest of Europe in this department. Fascinating subject!

  16. Jill Walker Rettberg

    You’re right, Kristine, we do lag behind, although the time lag is decreasing… I think you’re right that 2008 was a watershed year for Norwegian general recognition of blogging and social media – I spent most of that year on maternity leave and when I came back I felt like everything had shifted – suddenly it was called social media, suddenly there were hundreds of experts on it, and suddenly even the people who still didn’t quite know how it worked knew that they SHOULD know how to use it. A huge shift.

    The most popular Norwegian blogs are way more personal and confessional than the most popular US blogs. Which does rather destroy my argument about puritanism and diaries…

    I wonder if the UK really was way ahead of the rest of Europe? Hm.

  17. […] RT @jilltxt widget showing social media behaviors by age, country, gender [#] […]

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