Japanese have fewest digital friends on social networks

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Malaysians have the most friends on their social networks, while Japanese users have the fewest.

This is one of the findings of a large-scale research project, looking at online behaviour around the globe.

It also found that digital sources are overtaking TV, radio and newspapers as the media channel of choice for 61% of the online population around the world.

The study, conducted by research firm TNS, interviewed 50,000 consumers in 46 countries for the study.

In Malaysia the average number of friends is 233, closely followed by 231 in Brazil and 217 in Norway.

This contrasts to an average of just 29 friends in Japan, and 68 in China.

The results could suggest "a culture that embraces fewer but closer friendships," thinks TNS's chief development officer Matthew Froggatt.

As well as having the most friends, Malaysians are also the heaviest users of social networking sites, spending an average of nine hours per week on them.

It is followed by Russia, where people spend an average 8.1 hours per week online and Turkey where 7.7 hours a week are spent on social networks.

Socially mobile

The study found that consumers are now spending more time on social networking sites than using e-mail.

This is fuelled in part by the rise in mobile net access.

In the US, a third of online consumers expect to be accessing social networks via their mobile phones over the next 12 months, compared to a quarter via a PC.

In Sweden, over half said they would access social networks via mobile and just a quarter cited the traditional PC.

National crisis

The importance of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter is being explored in a separate study at the University of East London.

Researchers are using three British cities - London, Birmingham and Carlisle, to study whether social networks could help save lives in the event of a national crisis.

"We are working on the premise that, as technological advances continue, the traditional mediums of television and radio may become usurped in their potency in terms of delivering important messages to society at large," said Professor John Preston, who is leading the project.

The TNS study, which the researchers hope will become an annual project, also found that countries newer to the digital world are embracing online activities at a faster rate to those in more mature markets.

In China four out of five users have written their own blog, compared to only 32% in the US.

"In rapid growth markets...users are embracing these new channels in much more active ways. The digital world is transforming how they live, develop and interact," said Mr Froggatt.

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