Facebook and Japan now

26 Jun

It’s been about 2 years since I wrote “Why Facebook is not that popular in Japan?“. But the situation has been changing since then, and I still receive comments to that post. So I think it’s high time I updated it with this post.

Twitter became popular first in Japan. (It’s easier to navigate and no need to use a real name.) It’s true it took a long time until Facebook became popular. But same as twitter, when some celebs or well-known figures start using it, TV or magazines start to feature it, and gradually people start using it. I must say the movie “The Social Network” is definitely a motivator or a trigger for the Japanese to try out Facebook. As is always the case with most of the foreign films in Japan, the movie was just released 15th Jan. 2011, while it was already sometime in 2010 in the U.S.

When I go to a party, I notice people are naturally talking about Facebook and exchanging their names to be added later for “friend”. It’s the change I can easily see today. Now when more and more people start using Facebook, people bring people. That’s how it’s getting popular.

But it’s possible the party is mixed with the locals and foreigners living in Tokyo. What if it was only Japanese? What if the party was not in Tokyo? I don’t know. Please look at the result that we can get from Google Insights for Search. You see the numbers of the term of Facebook searched in Japan are growing only recently. (What do the numbers on the graph mean?) Also, you see most of the searches are from Tokyo.

Facebook was available in Japan since 2008, but most of the Japanese naturally feel it’s scary to share a real name and face on internet because some stalkers could find someone to stalk from such information. (Sadly it’s not rare in Japan that women are killed by a stalker because they rejected him. Such incident is often reported by the media, and it’s actually very difficult to avoid the tragedy because the police cannot be a full-time body guard for the victim.) To protect ourselves, it’s natural for us, especially women, to use a nick name or avatar and a picture that does not show her face clearly, if it’s open for the public and anyone can take a look at it. Japan-born SNS such as mixi is more closed and thus it gives us a kind of protected feelings. Of course it never requires a real name for registration.

This is basically our culture. Hence I didn’t believe Facebook can be accepted by the majority of Japanese people no matter how popular it can be. No one wants to try something new in exchange for a risk of being involved in murder or any scary or negative experiences. User names and avatars are convenient tools for some bad-mannered people to be totally anonymous icon that can be really mean to others. Therefore, in Japan, to enter the conversation or online activity it’s safer to be in armor with fake name so one can blur his or her identity. This is the basic thought that majority of the Japanese naturally have consciously or not.

Why Japanese internet sphere has become so dangerous then?
In my opinion, it’s possible some bad-mannered people just try to get rid of their repressed feelings online that they could not have expressed in their real life. It’s our culture, we do not express our feelings very much in a social life and especially at work. Internet is a sweet lawless area to them where they can act and speak out things as they wished, which should not be allowed in a real life. In fact, I think you will be surprised how online message-board posts are active in Japan, while most of the Japanese hesitate to state their own opinion in their real life. People state their opinions very clearly, sometimes with very strong expressions and even includes personal attack, which must be possible with their identity hidden or blurred.

Online activity and real life: Some Japanese people do prefer these two worlds completely separated, so they can act 2 different characters in order to keep their mental balance.

On the other hand, when people find it safe enough to go by their real name on Facebook, I think Japanese facebook users will increase rapidly.

As for me, I still like to use my nickname as Kirin online. (For Facebook, Kirin Suzuki is my personal page and Tokyo Kawaii, etc. for the fan page of this blog.) After all I still like personal email exchanges a lot more than short chats or messages over social network.

Have you felt any difference in communication with Japanese Facebook users lately? Do you think we’ve become more active on Facebook? Or do you still find difficulties trying to get connected with your Japanese friends over Facebook?

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18 Responses to “Facebook and Japan now”

  1. Mutsumi June 26, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Definitely felt the difference!!! Lately I notice a lot of Japanese shops and/or models signing up on Facebook ~ It seems to be a good place for especially artists to widen their fanbase and/or connect with the rest of the world. I feel like the Japanese who sign up on facebook are more open-minded and even kind of 'western'

  2. Vermillion June 26, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    Thanks for the perspective of why some Japanese people don't like using Facebook, I never thought of the privacy concerns in that way before.

    I have a lot of exchange/international students from Japan that come to my university and then they get Facebook. Societies usually use Facebook as a way to annouce events and when you meet people, they usually ask if they can find you on Facebook so I guess it's useful to have an account. One of my friends who went back to Japan, got an iPhone so he now reguarly posts what he's doing lol.

  3. steve stier June 26, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I must admit that I do not understand the popularity of facebook. My sister asked me to open an account which helped her get some kind of points. And being a good brother I did what she asked. But I do not see any benefit to putting my personal information online. Perhaps if I were famous like Kirin, it would mean more to me.

    • kirin June 27, 2011 at 12:50 pm #

      Haha, I personally like communication through email and skype more than SNS. I did open my facebook account, but in my case I did that to promote this blog. In my real life, I do enjoy exchanging personal messages through email a lot more than communication through twitter or facebook. ^ ^;;

  4. Salma June 26, 2011 at 7:12 pm #

    That's a good topic to deal with, Kirin. šŸ˜‰
    Well, I found out by myself that, as you mentioned, the Japanese prefer using Mixi more than Facebook so much. I still don't see many many Japanese Facebook users, but they may gradually increase as I see in the photo of the statistics in your post.
    As for sharing personal information, photos, etc., I believe in general one may do so as long as he/she doesn't accept friend requests, in Facebook for instance, except from only close friends or people he/she knows and he/she limits the privacy settings of his/her profile šŸ™‚

  5. Tami June 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

    I still have no facebook account and i prolly never will have one either, i don't know why.. i don't really "trust" that thing to pour all my private things into it and some of the news you read here and there about it didn't make it better for me.

    I'm fine just with twitter and for work related matters XING – i think thats enough for me. ^^

    Though, i realy enjoyed the movie "The Social Network", it didn't change my mind either.

    • kirin June 27, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

      I missed watching the movie. I'll wait for that it's becoming available with DVD soon. ^ ^

  6. megan June 27, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    I've noticed that Japanese kids who have been to the US before seem to be fine with making a Facebook page so they can more easily stay in touch in with their friends in the US. I don't know if this represents the feelings of many though.

  7. Angel June 27, 2011 at 2:38 am #

    I have a facebook but I am very careful who I add and have all my setting on private and friends only. Only people that I know in real life that I have met and that I trust. I also use a nickname and often change my profile picture to an anime character or a flower or some such thing. You don't have to use your real name at all, even though it it encouraged.

    I agree that it can be very dangerous to reveal too much about yourself online. Facebook can be an open door for some people to cause trouble or be creepy towards others.

    But I think that this is not just limited to FB…the whole world is becoming so online and information is becoming way easier to get which is a very scary thought!! X_X;

  8. Tempehro June 27, 2011 at 12:28 pm #

    Well, I read this post about Facebook and the one from 2 years ago, including all comments. And the more often I read and think about it, the more I dislike your new post. Sorry! šŸ™‚ I'll try to explain:

    It's undeniable that Facebook is gaining success in Japan, as you noticed yourself and various commenters in these posts. But I think that the graphic of Google Insights leaves an overly dramatized picture. A quick look at the Yahoo ranking seems to confirms my doubts. More searched than AKB48 (by one rank šŸ˜‰ but way less than mixi. This means that despite the raising interest, Facebook is still used mainly by early adopters in Japan.

    The good thing about that is, that What Japan Thinks has an more or less recent survey from Macromill Research about How Japanese Facebook users see Facebook. Like you said, those early adopters have also the perception that Facebook is not well adapted to the Japanese market regarding the wish of anonymity.

    But from what stems this overwhelming wish of anonymity? According to your explanation it goes (very simplified by me) this way:
    “Clear name” leads to “stalking” leads to “death”. Using a nickname gives you safety.

    I have major issues with this simplified approach of security and I'm absolutely sure (correct me please if I'm wrong) that the Japanese media has major contribution of spreading this simple “truth”. IMHO it's not nicknames or cute avatars that are saving lives. They surely can effectively save you from nuisances. But the only thing that can save lives is common sense!

    Every dating site has online dating safety guidelines. But these guidelines doesn't (or at least shouldn't) just apply to online dating but to all activities online.

    The second most important point is, know your tools! Reading your two post about Facebook it's sounds like someone has to strip naked in order to open an account šŸ˜‰ But the only thing they want is a name and a valid e-mail address. Of course, as you read in the comments, many don't use their real name. Me neither, simply because my real name is so rare that its origin can be geographically pinpointed. And in the case I'll ever need it for professional purposes on the internet it won't get mixed up with my private one. (Keeping them apart, is also kind of a damage control, should one of them get hacked.)

    But nonetheless, Facebook have (almost) everything to manage you information, pictures and messages. You can create individual groups of “friends” e.g. your close friends, acquaintances and people related with work, and define for each area of your Facebook page who gets included or excluded. It's tedious, but at least you are in control.

    So my post got already a bit too long. I hope you don't mind if it gets a tiny šŸ˜‰ bit longer by quoting a paragraph of your post:

    <q>
    Why Japanese internet sphere has become so dangerous then?
    In my opinion, it’s possible some bad-mannered people just try to get rid of their repressed feelings online that they could not have expressed in their real life. It’s our culture, we do not express our feelings very much in a social life and especially at work. Internet is a sweet lawless area to them where they can act and speak out things as they wished, which should not be allowed in a real life. In fact, I think you will be surprised how online message-board posts are active in Japan, while most of the Japanese hesitate to state their own opinion in their real life. People state their opinions very clearly, sometimes with very strong expressions and even includes personal attack, which must be possible with their identity hidden or blurred.
    </q>

    Well I don't know, but it's sounds pretty much like trolling to me. And believe me, it's not an exclusive Japanese phenomenon! šŸ˜€ You have 2chan, the English speaking Internet has 4chan, with the (in)famous board /b/.

    Indeed I consider your point of view regarding the internet very dangerous. Declaring Japanese internet sphere as “dangerous” is the first step to censorship. Common sense, the knowledge on how to use the tools and not feeding the trolls šŸ™‚ are enough to make the internet “safe”. Btw, the last commenter on your 2 year old post about Facebook, guido, is a pitiful example of a troll. I don't know, why you didn't just erase his comment. (And no this not a censorship, because he is free to go somewhere else to rant about your blog! šŸ˜‰

    Sorry for the long post.

    • kirin June 27, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

      Thank you for your opinion and writing such a long comment.
      I see. I think more of us will use Facebook when we learn it's totally safe using the "tools" provided by Facebook.

      As for the trolling comment in the last post, I thought I should delete his comment at first, but then I changed my mind and delt with his opinion equally.

      • Tempehro June 27, 2011 at 7:58 pm #

        I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Facebook is not “totally” safe. (And absolute terms are never good ;)).

        It's a profiling machine – who are your friends, what are your interests, politically views? – and its database the wet dream for every ministry of home affairs. šŸ˜‰ This means, people who rely on anonymity for them or their sources, like investigative journalists, NGOs for human rights or anti-corruption, etc., Facebook is a big no-no.

        And the rest of us just have to manage the customized security settings. (I wouldn't recommend the standard ones, imho.)

        One more thing: OpenID with Google Accounts doesn't work with your implementation of IntenseDebate. Is there a way to fix it?

      • kirin June 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

        Thank you for letting me know the problem of IntenseDebate. I appreciate that you pointed that out. I'll report it to IntenseDebate and hopefully get it fixed.

  9. Feli July 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    I usually visit facebook when i'm bored cause they have quite an amount of fun games there. That and cause i can get a quick update on my what's going on with my friends' and such. However,i do honestly feel that facebook and every type of social networking isn't full-proof safe. Everything has it's risk,it's just dependent on how we're able to reduce such risk. Such as how Japanese citizens decide to use anonymity,avatars etc. to lower the chances of being at a risk.

    • kirin July 2, 2011 at 11:48 am #

      Thank you for your comment.
      I didn't even know we can play games on Facebook. Well, but actually I'm too busy to be bored enough to play with them, haha. ^ ^;;;

  10. Amika July 1, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

    FYI – lots of people in the US feel the same way about facebook as folks in Japan.
    Security is a concern for women. I have a made up first/last name that I use on facebook for that very reason. That way my employer cannot match up my facebook profile with my name – and it keeps those you want out of your private life from watching what you post.

    • kirin July 2, 2011 at 11:51 am #

      Thank you for your opinion. It's very interesting for me to know such idea is also supported by some American women.

  11. Toren February 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm #

    I think that is pretty hard to keep in toch with Japanese and they are very trustless to foreigners, especilly to express their feelings and emotions. But I have recently get Japanese friends and I hace changed my opinion. We are on good terms with each other and share our interests and secrets. That helped me to get a real situation to the problem by someone else's eyes.

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