Report: One-in-Five Kenyans on Social Networks

Don't be so quick to discount that email from the man in Nigeria who wants to be your friend. It may not be a scam, but just a friendly poke from a man in country fascinated by social networking. So say the findings of a new study from Pew Research that's grabbing headlines with a global outlook on who's checking in to social networks, and where.

Don’t be so quick to discount that email from the man in Nigeria who wants to be your friend. It may not be a scam, but just a friendly poke from a man in country fascinated by social networking. So say the findings of a new study from Pew Research that’s grabbing headlines with a global outlook on who’s checking in to social networks, and where.

The study released this week by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project looked at Internet use in 22 countries around the globe and found that the most economically desperate of nations have, in fact, the greatest ratio of Internet users to social networkers.

In the two African nations surveyed, Kenya and Nigeria, when people have the opportunity to go online, they go straight to social networking. Roughly one-in-five Kenyans (19 percent) participate in social networking, while only 5 percent use the Internet but do not participate. Similarly, 17 percent of Nigerians go to these sites, while only 7 percent go online but do not access such sites.

The same held true in countries such as Poland, Russia, Brazil and Argentina, where a far larger portion of the population has no access to the Internet, but an overwhelming majority of the people who do have Internet use it for social networking.

In both Russia and Brazil, for example, only 10 percent of Internet users are not involved in social networking.

“When people use the internet in middle and low income countries, they tend to participate in social networking,” the report said.

The only countries to dispel this finding were Germany and Japan.

Just 31 percent of Germans use social networking, while 49 percent go online at least occasionally but choose not to use them. In Japan, 24 percent are engaged in social networking, but 44 percent have Internet access but are not engaged.

Overall, the study found it is Americans, not surprisingly, who are the biggest users of social media like Facebook and MySpace. 46 percent of Americans polled reported they use social media.

Coming in close behind the U.S. in social media users were Poland, Britain and South Korea, where at least 40 percent of Internet users in those countries say they go online for social media.

But don’t look for many Facebook friends or “likes” in Indonesia or Pakistan, where more than 90 percent of the population does not use the Internet at all.

Those two countries fell to the bottom of Pew’s list, with only 6 percent and 3 percent, respectively, of the populations on social networks.

One statistic every country had in common was a notable age gap, with young people much more likely to use social networking sites. In 12 nations, a majority of people younger than age 30 use these sites. In contrast, there is no country in which even 25 percent of those age 50 and older participate in social networking.