Since I’m constantly told how great Twitter is, I decided to join a week ago. I’m not sure how it will affect my blogging, but so far I have no major complaints since I started using it last week. I’ve been making some minor changes to my blog as well, though I can’t get facebook to sync with this website, and I’m thinking of just giving up on it. Maybe twitter is enough. Anyways, beyond the general update on Skeptikai, I also decided to look up interesting facts about Twitter. I found lots. I admit, I didn’t realize how much Japan has affected twitter; and I had no idea how much Twitter has affected Japan.
The Twitter Nation
Japan is – as Akky Akimoto wrote for the Japan Times – the “Twitter Nation.” Despite twitter being conceived in America in 2006, Americans use it less than Japanese people do (per capita). According to one study that finished a few weeks ago, by the Pew Research Center in America, 13% of American internet users are using twitter (there were a total of 2,277 participants). Whether these Pew numbers accurately reflect the current percentage of American users is debatable, but we can compare them to the results of the ComScore research firm, an internet market research company. According to ComScore, only 8% of Americans use Twitter, compared to 20% of Japanese people. I think the number will grow dramatically for Japan users as the generations change (note: Japan has the longest life expectancy in the world, and a huge elderly population which influence the statistics). Also, note that America’s population is almost 2 and a half times larger than Japan’s, so we may be talking about a relatively equal number of users. But at least per capita, Japan is certainly the “Twitter nation.”
That’s not to say that tweets (messages from Twitter) are predominantly in Japanese, though. Half of the world’s tweets are in English, with Japanese being the second-most-tweeted language, accounting for 14% of all tweets. I can certainly understand why, now that I’ve used it. For all the compliments you can give Twitter, it’s at least twice as good in Japanese. Everyone finds the 140-character limit daunting in the beginning; but unlike English, which wastes a quarter of the message on spaces or punctuation, Japanese doesn’t use spaces, and it’s light on punctuation. YoucanwritelotsoftextinJapanese. Of course English uses abbreviations, but so does Japanese. Japanese is simply a better language for using Twitter (there, I said it). In fact, Chinese is probably the best language for Twitter. Not that it matters, though… since Twitter is banned in China.
Why Japan Loves Twitter
MySpace never took off in Japan, though everyone was using basically the Japanese version of it, called Mixi. Facebook has gradually (more than the diagram above shows) been growing in popularity in Japan, and “The Social Network” debuting in January earlier this year certainly helped. But according to an article from TheNextWeb published in February this year also says it has merely 2 milion, compared to Mixi, which has 20 million users (according to the Japan times).
One of the important factors in Twitter’ popularity is the lack of clutter. Essentially, the more English there is (i.e., MySpace and facebook had far too much English text for Japanese people) the harder it is for Japanese people to use it. By the time Myspace and facebook were more user friendly for Japanese people, everyone already had Mixi. Twitter was simple enough (i.e., very little text) for it to catch on, and it was so different that it didn’t necessarily “compete” with Mixi. Twitter’s subsequent popularity lead Japanese to be the second language added to twitter menus, in 2008.
Another reason for Twitter’s rise was its anonymity. People using the popular forum “2-chan” (channel 2) really liked twitter (note: there has already been an English version of 2-chan, called 4-chan). 2-chan is a forum that keeps no logs, which means that every message said will be erased in a matter of days –perfect unaccountable anonymity. Twitter was a welcome addition at that point, presumably because not enough people knew about it to cause a fuss if something bad was said, and it was easily accessible for everyone to write. Essentially, 140 characters in Japanese is enough for a blog entry, and that’s kind of what it had become – micro-blogs.
If you read my post on Korean pop stars entering into “slave contracts,” you may remember the group JYJ (who are pictured in the article). One member, “Jaejoong” – the first J in JYJ – wrote a tweet in November last year, saying “I’m not forgetting Japanese so please study Korean hard as well.” It became the most popular keyword in Japan at the time, with Jaeyoong being the second-most popular. But nothing compared to New Year’s Day this year. During the fourth second of the year, 6,939 tweets were posted in Japan, making it the record for tweets per second. This beat out the previous record – which was from when Michael Jackson had died – by 6,483 tweets. However, celebrity tweets or New Year’s Events paled in comparison to the Earthquake.
On March 11, 177 million tweets were sent. Over half a million new Twitter accounts were created on March 12. The earthquake had disrupted mobile phone networks, and I see now (I didn’t realize at the time) that people were being told to use Twitter as a means of communication. At the time there were various phone applications that I saw were put to good use, the most famous of which is probably “Yurekuru.” It gives you information on an earthquake after, as, or immediately before it comes (depending on your location). More than a few times, I would hear the alarms of my coworkers go off (it was a really scary scene, because I didn’t know about it in the beginning), and we would all fall silent, bracing ourselves for the earthquake to come a few seconds later. But there were also similar informative channels on twitter.
“Bots” are software programs that basically imitate humans by tweeting specialty information. Some imitate TV characters, celebrities, historic figures, fortune tellers, etc., and there are certainly people paying attention. According to a survey by social media analyzer Sysomos Inc., 5% of Twitter users account for 75% of Twitter activity. In fact, 85% of users were reported to post less than once a day. In other words, many more people are listening than speaking. The most popular “twitter-bot” is now @earthquake_jp, which I have just started following yesterday (i.e., I receive every tweet from people I follow). I guess you could say I had the “pleasure” (not really…) of testing it out because five minutes after I started following the @earthquake_jp bot, there was a strong, but thankfully brief, earthquake. I was surprised at how fast the information came up, but it doesn’t do me much good now. As for human-to-human interaction, Japanese doctors have been saying that Twitter was instrumental in helping patients figure out where to get medication. The lack of communication after the earthquake was felt for hundreds of kilometers, so Twitter was one of the inventive ways that people could keep in touch, whether they’re a friend, family member, or patient.
Skeptikai now on Twitter
So now that I have joined, I’m trying to figure out how to best use Twitter to my advantage. The character limit seems to have made me develop a blunt and sarcastic personality, which is strange considering how my blog posts aren’t really written like that. Or so I thought?… Regardless, the most recent tweets I write from now on will appear on the side of my blog. My first tweet, a profound sentiment exactly 140 characters long, is the first of many to come:
“I finally came to the dark side-Skeptikai’s on twitter. I don’t have enough characters to say my full opinion of twitter but basically it is”
[July 13 Update: I just found some fantastic graphics by Eric Fischer, who has put together visualizations of tweets and flickr pictures from cities all over the world. Red dots indicate Flicker pictures, blue dots indicate tweets, and white indicate places with both. You can see how represented Japan is on a global scale.]