Dec. 15, 2010 at 7:28 PM ET
Use of social networking services has blown up globally, but some countries are more into it than others, according to a new Pew Global Attitudes study. Poland, Britain and South Korea rival the U.S. in usage, but Facebook and its ilk may have a Germany/Japan problem.
It's not surprising that the U.S. has the most social networkers by overall population: 46 percent of Americans say they're on it, while 36 percent of the population use the Internet but skip the social. (The remaining 18 percent aren't online at all.) A similar story can be told for highly wired Great Britain and South Korea.
What's crazy is that, in countries such as Poland, Russia, Brazil and Argentina, where a far larger portion of the population has no access to the Internet, an overwhelming majority of the people who do have Internet use it for social networking.
The report indicates that the opposite is true in Germany and Japan:
Germans and the Japanese stand out among highly connected publics for their comparatively low levels of participation in social networking. While 31% of Germans use these types of sites, 49% go online at least occasionally but choose not to use them. In Japan, 24% are engaged in social networking, while 44% have internet access but are not engaged.
The story gets a little more bizarre when the info is broken down by age and gender. In Germany, 86 percent of people under 30 are involved in social networking, but enthusiasm peters out almost immediately: 36 percent of those 30 to 49, and just 8 percent of those over 50, do the social network thing.
In Japan, it's a gender gap: 30 percent of men participate in social networking, while just 19 percent of women do. In the U.S., both genders are highly involved, but it's women who take the lead, with 52 percent participating, versus 41 percent of men.
So what does it mean? It's hard to say. As much as we like the Pew surveys, this particular one seemed a little thin on willing participants: In Germany and Britain, fewer than 100 people in the key 18- to 29-year-old demographic even responded. What's more, the survey took place between April 7 and May 8 of this year, when hardly a person knew the name Mark Zuckerberg. I demand a repeat of the survey!