For the past seven years or so, the Philippines has been touted as the “Social (Media) Nation of the world”. This is reminiscent of the time when the Philippines was being hailed as the “texting capital of the world”, even before the turn of the millennium.
But at first glance at the statistics, it doesn’t seem so. The country is not even near the Top 20 of the highest Internet Penetration or Adoption Rate.
As of June 2022, the Philippine penetration or adoption rate is pegged at 68%. This means that 32% of the Philippine population do not have ACCESS to the Internet. That is quite a big proportion. So how can it be the “Social (Media) Nation of the World”?
In comparison, the top 10 countries with the highest Internet Adoption rates all have 99% penetration rates.
Going to the Internet needs equipment – internet-capable cellphones at the very least. Other gadgets would include laptops, desktops, wifi modems and broadband susbscription. While touch screen cellphones are getting cheaper by the year, there are stll so many who use feature phones, known locally as “keypad”phones.
As everyone knows, the country is not rich – in terms of Gross Domestic Product. And with 111 million people, the GDP per capita is quite low. The Philippines has US$ 8,390 GDP per capita. Compare that to its neighbors Hong Kong with US$59,238 or Singapore with US$98,526.00 So how can the Philippines be the “Social (Media) Nation of the World”?
Aside from the poor financial capabilities of the average Filipino, s/he is faced with quite expensive Internet rate at very slow speeds. The situation in the Philippines is certainly not conducive to spending time in the Internet. The average broadband price is more than $39. This is higher than prices in Macau, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, Israel, Thailand, Korea, Turkey, and India, etc. And these states are much richer than the Philippines.
The Philippines has an average internet speed at $39 is 23.74 Mbps for broadband.
(I am using figures from the Digital 2022 Overview Global Report by We Are Social and Hootsuite. Other sources give a much lower average speed – around 8 Mbbps. But the speed is also is a function of price. Those who can afford, can get very high speeds.)
This is so much slower than those in countries that have cheaper rates like Macau (151.33), Malaysi (81.46), China (133.6), Japan (106.49), Taiwan (122.59), Israel (99.71), Thailand (171.36), Korea (158.78) and Vietnam (54.67)
For mobile internet connection speed, the Philippines has even a slower speed. Mobile internet speed averages 18.68 mbps.
THE REASON WHY
The Philippines became the “texting capital of the world” even though there were way more people with cellphones in other countries. For most people in other countries, they use their cellphones to call and talk to others. Most Filipinos, on the other hand, patiently use texts to communiate as it is much cheaper to do so, especially before when there were no such things as “Unli Calls” or “Unli Texts”
In the same vein, most Filipinos may not have the fanciest iphones or fastest wifi, but they don’t seem to mind connecting to the Internet and staying there for hours. The free Facebook schemes for cellphones is also a major factor — It gives so many low-income Filipinos a taste of Facebook for free, even thought they could not see the photos.
Thus, when it comes to spending time in the Internet, mostly using cellphones, the Filipinos are the world’s champions. That is the reason why the Philippines is the “Social (Media) Nation of the World.
In a Jan. 28, 2021 Rappler report, Kyle Chua noted:
The Philippines tops the world again for time spent using social media this year, making it the 6th straight year it has done so. According to the report, Filipinos spend an average of 4 hours and 15 minutes each day on social media, which is 22 minutes higher than last year’s average of 3 hours and 53 minutes, and 3 minutes higher than 2019’s average of 4 hours and 12 minutes.
But South Korea surpassed the Philippines in Daily Time Spent in the Internet. South Koreans spend 10 hours and 46 minutes a day on the Internet while Filipinos spend only 10 hours and 27 minutes, according to the January 2022 report.
But while the South Koreans surpassed the Filipinos on Time Spent using the Internet, the Filipinos beat the South Koreans when it comes to spending time on Social Media. As of Jan 2021, the Filipinos spent 4 hours and 15 minutes while South Koreans spent a mere 1 hour and 8 minutes on social media
Moreover, the Filipinos remain on top of the heap (5 hours and 47 minutes) when it comes to spending time in the Internet on Mobiles. South Koreans spend a mere 2 hours and 46 minutes on social media on mobile Internet.
Thus the title of Social Media Nation or Social Media Capital of the World seems to be firmly in the Philippines’ hands.
SOCIAL MEDIA USES
But what do Filipinos do online? Interestingly, Filipinos top the charts in watching online video for learning, esp. now in the pandemic period, with 71% of those in the Internet watch online learning videos a week.
(Incidentally, I got course certificates in WordPress web design and Hypnotherapy from a Sussex institute this pandemic period.)
Watching Vlogs seems to be very popular among young Filipinos. This is probably because mainstream media organizations like ABSCBN support vloggers by putting them under contract and promoting them. They top the charts at 60% with Taiwan a far second at 40%.
And most middle- and upper-class Filipinos watch streaming TV, esp. Netflix. And when they Netflix, they watch for hours on end.
And what many high school and college students prefer over attending classes is — playing internet video games.
Filipinos also top the charts in following influencers in social media. More than half of the Filipino internet users follow influencers.
In sum, the Filipinos top the charts in many categories in social media. I suppose they deserve to be called the “Most Social Media Nation” or “Social Media Capital of the world.”
This is an “extended version” of the first part of the lecture I delivered on March 4, 2022 in the webinar titled Digital Journalism and the Mindanao Vote. Organized by Philippine Press Institute (PPI) and Journalism Studies Association of the Philippines, Inc. (JSAP, Inc.) supported by Hanns Seidel Foundation in cooperation with Internews in collaboration with USAID.