Where do people overshare most online? Hint: It’s not the U.S.


The results of a recent survey by marketing firm Ipsos, which asked social media users around the world how much they "shared" online. (KPCB)

Twenty-four percent of global social media users share "everything" or "most things" online, according to a recent survey by marketing research firm Ipsos. But a few countries beat that average several times over: In Saudi Arabia, the clear frontrunner in the survey, more than 60 percent of respondents said they regularly pour out their feelings, photos and videos to their virtual friends.

Those numbers stay pretty consistent across age groups and classes, Ipsos found. In fact, people older than 50 are the most likely to say they share "everything" online. Business-owners and executives -- many of whom are likely both educated and prosperous -- also lean toward oversharing.

There are, it must be said, some obvious flaws in the survey methodology. The question -- "Which of the following best describes how much you share online?" -- is vague enough to be interpreted a vast number of ways. And comparing demographically representative samples of social media users from countries as different as Indonesia and Canada means you're looking at very unalike groups: the ages and temperaments of users in Mexico, for instance, are different than in a country with greater Internet and social media penetration.

In fact, there seems to be a clear relationship between "oversharing" and Internet penetration: Nearly all the countries that overindex are in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where penetration is low; meanwhile, almost all the countries that "undershare" are in Europe, where more people are online.

But the results are still interesting, considering the heated dialogue about social media that's gone down in Saudi Arabia over recent weeks. The government has reportedly called for blocks or filters of popular social networks, drawing protests from activists, bloggers and at least one tweeting prince. Last week, the head of the kingdom's religious police infamously warned that Twitter users had "lost this world and his afterlife." That echoed critical comments made earlier this year by the imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque, who called Twitter a threat to "national unity."

Saudi Arabia is certainly not the only Middle Eastern country where social media has polarized social factions, but the drama seems to be particularly amplified here in recent months. That may have something to do with the breakneck growth of Saudi Arabia's social networks, which have given neither the government nor users an opportunity to catch up.

fg Saudia Arabia has seen some of the sharpest growth on Facebook in the immediate region. (Arab Social Media Report/Dubai School of Government)

A report earlier this year by Saudi social media firm The Social Clinic found that Twitter usage in Saudi Arabia grew by 3000 percent in 2011 alone, about 10 times the global average. Facebook and YouTube have also seen growth in the double and triple digits: Facebook is now, per The Social Clinic, the third-most visited site in the KSA, and Saudi Arabians watch more YouTube videos than people in any other country. This becomes especially striking -- almost unbelievable -- when you consider that Saudi Arabia has only 28 million people.

Caitlin Dewey is The Post’s digital culture critic. Follow her on Twitter @caitlindewey or subscribe to her daily newsletter on all things Internet. (tinyletter.com/cdewey)

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Caitlin Dewey · May 30, 2013