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?