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Social media usage in Japan - statistics and facts

Social media is an increasingly influential means of communication in Japan. The country has a high social media penetration rate, with the number of social media users amounting to almost 91 million as of 2020. Despite a rapidly aging and shrinking population, the number of users is expected to increase further in the coming years. Due to their ubiquity, social networking services (SNS) shape everyday culture to an unprecedented degree, both in the private as well as in the public sphere. Survey data indicate that about three quarters of Japanese use social media on a daily basis. The influence of these networks is underpinned by the spread of smartphones, which have made it much more convenient to engage with other people regardless of place and time.

Leading services today

When it comes to services, the domestic messaging app LINE is dominant among social media platforms in Japan. LINE was developed in 2011 as a response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, which disrupted conventional communication channels in affected areas and made an alternative form of communication necessary. In addition to text messages, the app offers various features associated with social networks, such as Timeline, which makes status posts possible. Next to LINE, internationally successful services such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook enjoy high popularity in Japan, while TikTok is frequently used by teenagers. Japan was the first country in which Twitter grew faster in terms of user numbers than Facebook, partly because of the Japanese writing system, which allowed for more content to be written per single post, and partly because of privacy reasons and the prior availability of services similar to Facebook.

Earlier development of social networks

The Japanese social media landscape was initially shaped by domestic services, such as Mixi and GREE, which were both introduced in 2004. Prior to the spread of smartphones, a considerable number of people in Japan were used to being connected to others via featurephones, which also made it possible to play games or blog online. Services like Mixi and GREE recorded increasing user numbers until the beginning of the 2010s, when they were gradually supplanted by their competitors. Facebook and Twitter started their Japanese language versions in 2008, with Instagram following in 2014, and TikTok in 2017.

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