Monday, June 11

Facebook, a difficult community for many Japanese

Oh, so you thought it was a fun social site?

On April 5, 2012, a study was released assessing Japan's views on Facebook. Nearly 70% of the Japanese surveyed said Facebook gives them at least occasional stress (source). The stats are a result of 500 people ages 15 to 59 surveyed in Japan's two biggest metropolitan areas.
When asked to be more specific about the cause of stress, the most frequently given answer, with 34.3%, was due to lack of privacy when engaging in interpersonal relationships in a frank manner. The second most stressful factor, with 31.1%, was that users felt besieged by meddlesome solicitations (invitations or pitches). Third, with 27.1%, was that they felt they were put on the spot by people’s requests to become “friends” and had difficulty refusing. And fourth, with 26.5%, was that users found it annoying to receive messages or notifications from friends of friends, or other parties with whom they had no direct relationship (source).
Of course, I'm sure Americans are sometimes stressed by Facebook, but there are a lot of cultural differences in Japan that understandably make Facebook a more difficult environment. For a quick reference point: if one of my American friends complained about a friend request and whether or not they should add the person in question I would most certainly transmit the message, "Oh, grow up," in at least my facial expression and/or posture.

While Twitter is still on top, Facebook has a grip on Japanese social structures

In Japan, relationships, community and respect are much more important. Social roles are even more strict for older generations and for certain groups. While teaching an eikaiwa (English conversation class) class in Japan, I remember being irked  by the older students asking each other their class years to establish seniority. Seniority in that eikaiwa class effected everything from who got to talk first to who had to do all the grunt work for special events.

If a community English conversation class can be justifiably manipulated by the seniors of the group, you could imagine what kind of social pressures run rampant on the Japanese Facebook platform. Imagine if you felt obligated to accept a friend request from your boss and a few coworkers and now feel pressured to attend a non-mandatory work function posted on Facebook because most of them are and you don't want to seem like the bad egg. And all you wanted to do was see pictures of your friend's kids.

"I'm sorry I missed the enkai last night, but I was nursing my sick cat. Check my status updates."

In contrast, people in the US tend to not shed a tear for those that are hung up on event invitations or friend requests. I may be speaking in generalizations now but it seems the Western Facebook users are bound more by the survival of the fittest rules in which only the weak are bogged down by social stress; anyone smart enough has learned to navigate Facebook stress free.

I'm sure if the same study was done in the US, the researchers would find the following unimpressive data:
  1. Most people are slightly addicted to Facebook.
  2. Half of users have complained about certain users complaining on Facebook.
  3. 90% of users are sick of getting Farmville requests.
  4. 10% of users are sick that no one will accept their Farmville requests.
  5. 45% of people are still upset about not getting a "dislike" button.
  6. A third of all users are upset that you have to be friends with some people to see their photos.
  7. 60% of all college users have spent over 10 hours "stalking" other users.
  8. 4% are excited about Mark Zuckerberg's wedding photos.
And maybe, one or two more in-tune users might comment on Facebook's ever-shifting privacy policy. If you get my exaggerated point, the US seems to adopt a use-it-or-don't attitude (in part, because we've had it since 2004) whereas Facebook could potentially trap, coerce or exploit Japanese users for only respecting traditional social norms.

If you'd like to read more including some personal accounts, check out the article.

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