By: Zach Newsom
Damian Radcliffe’s presentation on social media use in the Middle East caused me to reflect on my own experience living abroad in Japan and how social media use there differs from social media use in the United States. Because I was volunteering as a missionary while I was there, my own use of social media and even my exposure to social media was very limited. I am friends with many of the people I met there on Facebook and Instagram (especially the younger crowd for Instagram) now and am familiar with the platform LINE, but I was surprised to discover that Twitter is actually the most popular of the major global platforms in Japan, with 64% of the population logging in at least once in 2018. Interestingly, I am not connected with any of my Japanese friends on Twitter.
While LINE has many of the same features as the major global social media platforms, the primary use in Japan is as a messenger app used to send individual or group messages (very similar to WhatsApp), so despite the platform’s over 80 million monthly users, compared to Twitter’s 45 million, the lack of posting makes it slightly different than “traditional” social media.
However, the lack of posting seems to me to be a cultural phenomenon that crosses all social media platforms as many of my Japanese friends rarely post on their accounts, although they often like or react to my own posts. Perhaps this is linked to the tendency to place society over the expression of self in Japanese culture, whereas Americans tend to be far more individualistic (even narcissistic?). These differences in culture are a good reminder that just being on a social platform in a country is not enough for a business–they must understand how to be effective on social for that specific audience.