By Chandra Steele
Social media started out as a way to share information about your life with friends, but it’s turned into a force that shapes lives. A Global Web Index study of which countries spend the most time on social networks per day highlights some major issues.
In the countries where it’s most popular, social media has had a tremendous impact on politics and elections. The Philippines leads the list of social-media users; its citizens spend on average over four hours a day on it. That made it very easy for the brutal regime of President Rodrigo Duterte to turn Facebook into a tool for gaining and keeping power. Nearly three years after the 2016 elections, Facebook removed accounts that engaged in “inauthentic behavior.”
Meanwhile, Facebook-owned WhatsApp was a key source of misinformation in recent elections in Nigeria, the country that comes in second for social-media use.
The United States is eighth on the list in individuals’ time spent on social media, but the results of disinformation campaigns have engendered headlines worldwide.
Even in countries where social-media use is not a predominant part of the day for many people, its effects are felt. For instance, The New York Times just published a devastating report about YouTube’s role in electing far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
While Global Web Index’s interest is market research for advertisers, it has inadvertently pointed out a much larger problem for a much more important sort of market. Digital literacy is a dire need, particularly for the countries on this list.