Indonesians Love Social Networking

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After interviewing nearly 50,000 people around the world about their Internet habits, market research firm TNS has assembled the data in a stunning infographic. As the largest and most comprehensive study of this kind to date, it will take a while to parse all of the information, which can be divided by country or subject.

One of the first findings to jump out at me, though, is just how much Indonesians (and other Southeast Asians, but Indonesians especially) are using social networking tools. A whopping 70 percent of Indonesians surveyed ranked social networking as the most important function of the Internet -- ahead of email; knowledge and education; shopping; and news, sports and weather. Only 17 percent of those surveyed in the United States expressed similar love for Twitter and its cousins.

TNS has identified six digital lifestyles that they say describe the general types of relationships that consumers build with the Internet. While U.S. users are spread across all six, with 27 percent identified as Networkers ("The Internet is important for me to establish and maintain relationships"), more than 80 percent of Indonesians surveyed fall into the Aspirers category. "I'm looking to create a personal space online," the lifestyle definition states. "I'm very new to the Internet and I'm accessing via mobile and Internet cafes but mostly from home. I'm not doing a great deal at the moment online but I'm desperate to do more of everything, especially from a mobile device."

The Aspirer category may just be code for newbie, but the habits Indonesians form in the crucible of the Internet's ascendance in their country could stick around. The web, as they've encountered it is mobile and social. Early U.S. users were met with a very different beast. Users in the United States "view the Internet as more of a utility, garnished by time-wasters such as Facebook," Cliff Kuang wrote at Fast Company. "But other countries, such as those in East Asia, which saw the Internet grow commonplace at the same time as Web 2.0 was ascendant, view the Internet as a social tool first."

As Asian users come to numerically dominate the Internet, their notions of what you do online could become the prevailing sentiment. We all could be Indonesians tomorrow.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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