The U.S. may be the birthplace of Facebook, but Americans are far from the most social-network obsessed people on the planet. Egypt, Russia, the Philippines and 14 other developing countries outpace the U.S. in the proportion of internet users who log on to social sites.
The data comes from a new Pew Research Center report that examines technology adoption in developing nations. The report finds that a majority of Internet users in the 24 countries surveyed use social media, but smartphone users are still a minority.
"People are using social networking sites to stay in touch with family and friends and to share their views on an array of topics, including popular culture, religion and politics," the report's authors wrote. [See the Data Breakdown for Social Media Use by Country]
Social media a must
Most people in developing nations are not online. Internet usage is linked to a country's income, with countries with higher Gross Domestic Products (GDP) featuring more Internet users. In Argentina, Chile, Russia, Lebanon, China and Venezuela, more than half of people go online. Only 23 percent of people go online in Indonesia, 12 percent in Uganda and 8 percent in Pakistan.
In the U.S., the trend is nearly the opposite. Only 15 percent of Americans do not use the Internet, according to a separate Pew study conducted in 2013.
When people in the developing world get online, the Internet typically becomes part of their daily lives. More than half of Internet users in most countries surveyed said they got online daily.
When these users are online, social networking sites are a common destination. Egypt is the top developing nation for social networking use, with 88 percent of Internet users logging on to social sites. Russia and the Philippines follow with 86 percent of Internet users each also using social networks.
In the U.S., 73 percent of Internet users use social networking sites, a number that ties with Brazil. Other than Egypt, Russia and the Philippines, Tunisia, Indonesia, Jordan, Venezuela, Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, Mexico, Chile, Malaysia, Kenya, Argentia, El Salvador and Senegal all boast social media usership higher than 73 percent of Internet users.
Cellphones are even more widespread than social media, but smartphone adoption lags. In China, for example, 95 percent of people own a cellphone, but only 37 percent own a smartphone. Pakistan has the fewest users of both cellphones and smartphones. In Pakistan, 53 percent of people have cellphones, and only 3 percent have smartphones.
Texting is common among cellphone users, with a majority in 22 of the 24 countries surveyed saying they text. At least half in 15 countries use their phones to take pictures and videos.
In Africa, cellphones are commonly used to make or receive payments. Sixty-eight percent of Kenyan cellphone owners and 50 percent of Ugandan cellphone users use their phones for this purpose, compared with 8 percent of cellphone users in the countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa, Pew found.
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Stephanie Pappas is a contributing writer for Live Science, covering topics ranging from geoscience to archaeology to the human brain and behavior. She was previously a senior writer for Live Science but is now a freelancer based in Denver, Colorado, and regularly contributes to Scientific American and The Monitor, the monthly magazine of the American Psychological Association. Stephanie received a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of South Carolina and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.