For a few years now, Facebook is a popular hangout for many in Turkey. 84% of all Internet users have an account on Facebook says a report by ComScore. That puts the country on the third place for Facebook users Internationally. Although Internet penetration is still low at a 34% of the population, the vast population and the rate of increase on access in Turkey makes it an emerging power in social media.
The question is why Turks use social media? There is no relevant data but I will elaborate on my personal experience on that. First some data that could help shed some light on my observations. Bear in mind that Turkey’s population is very young as compared to many developed nation.
38% of all Internet users in Turkey are between the ages of 15 and 24. Another 31% is between 25 and 34. We can comfortably say that 69% of Internet users in Turkey are young people. Turks spend and average of 29,7 hours per month online and that is only third worldwide after Canada and the U.S.
What do they do online? I have made a small research on Facebook. I have sampled all my contacts in Turkey (150+) and selected another 150 from their contacts. Out of this 300, 52% said on their info that they are looking for a relationship. 78% said their reason for being on Facebook is friendship. Only 17% said networking. (The percentages will not add up since people can give more than one reason for their online existence)
I have also went through the timelines and follower lists of my 400+ Twitter followers. 65% of the followers are from the opposite sex if you are a Turkish woman on Twitter. On my follower list biggest nationality groups are Americans, British and Dutch. I surveyed their followers and followers of their followers. The average rate is 55% for opposite sex followers in non-Turkish groups. Online flirting is very common in both groups, but unfortunately there was no way of distinguishing the unfollow rate due to unsolicited flirting or more obscene behavior.
As I might easily deduct that Facebook is more a meeting place for lonely hearts in Turkey, my analysis using online tools like Twitter Analyzer shows that (at least in my own environment) primary subjects are more social than individual. Many NGO’s and political parties as well as government branches are using Twitter to create public opinion. This leads me to think that we should examine Twitter as a unique social media platform in contrast to ties competitors like Facebook, My Space and others. Turks tend to use Facebook, My Space. Turkish Mynet, Netlog, and Kalpkalbe in that order according to ComScore report. But surely Twitter is a rising star lately.
Deriving from my experience we can examine Turkish/related to Turkey tweeps in 4 groups;
This is what I call the “real” twitter bunch. Maybe that’s because I seem to belong to that group and their tweets enlightens me and very productive for me. It contains mostly International journalists, writers from all walks of life and some professors. This group is the most tolerant to opposing views and eager to correct any mistake and provide positive criticism. Helping each other in times of need on any subject is another characteristic of this group.
The members of this group also provide a very interesting insight to the present and the future of social media. Especially during the recent flotilla sent by a Turkish aid organization to Gaza, live reports on board became the only communication from the ships due to media blockage of Israeli Defense Forces. In my opinion future regional events would put social media into a more prominent position as far as news publishing and opinion casting are concerned. Already local traditional media is feeding from Twitter on a daily basis.
This group is the code of anti-twitter. They are so self-indulgent that they continuously forget the fact that their followers (or people at large) is the one source they feed on. The general ignorance of Turkish celebrities is subject for another article. Here I’d only point out the newspaper columnists and alike on Twitter. This bunch, full of their ego filled by astronomical salaries paid by ever-competing media barons to survive in a country where almost no one reads a newspaper basically bullshit everyday, torment their followers and only talk about inter-celebrity gossip. They pride in how many followers they block everyday and call them names I’d not be able to repeat here.
I have witnessed even a TV talkshow presenter asking for questions to be forwarded to his guest two hours before the show on Twitter. And during his show which lasted over one and a half hours ended up ignoring all questions asked online. One problem is they know how shallow and overfed they are. In a way Twitter has become their revenge from the society which makes fun of them and torrents them in every opportunity. Also Twitter has proven that this group is totally language illiterate. When you insult them in, say, English they just ignore the tweet. But when you criticize even lightly in Turkish they immediately slam you with a block. I think they are a sorry bunch, yet represent the society’s approach to things they couldn’t grasp.
Of course this group contains many sub-categories. Most are upper-level income groups. Self-proclaimed intellectuals. Penetration of social media into various low income, low culture groups in Turkey is yet to come.
But herein lies the real power of social media. There is great talent in this bunch. Many books can be published just by following these young talents. They feel free to mess with the literary rules, grammar and everything related to traditional approach to writing. These gems usually have blogs that I frequent a lot and learn more than anyone can imagine possible. They are fluent in many languages and follow a variety of opinion as well as artistic tendencies.
Another group is the “protesters”. They attract attention to many social and political woes of Turkey. Human Rights, nature, etc. organizations and many opinionated individuals fills that group. In some special days, these groups turn into think-tanks and come up with great and innovative ideas to change public opinion. In others, they may become stubborn idiosyncrasies of ideology. A recent protest against Turkish Prime Minister trended as #NoTayyip became a social phenomenon. Many new accounts created just to join this campaign in fears of public prosecution.
The followers of this campaign, sometimes pressuring their peers to contribute aimed at trending the hashtag of NoTayyip worldwide. Although unsuccessful on that front the campaign made the news nationwide and started a twitter-wide discussion about the success or failure of the current government in Turkey.
And the last but not the least of twitter personalities in Turkey is a group I’d call attackers. These are generally ultra-nationalists, not a minority in Turkey, who get accounts just to attack a few targeted individuals and then get banned by Twitter until they renew their attacks under a different name. They also send nationalist propaganda tweets as to how Turks are superior to every nation and how Turkey is threatened by foreign powers and such in a very offensive language.
The interesting fact about this group is how often their tweets get retweeted by ordinary people when they show up in keyword searches. They seem to act like an outspoken voice of public in large. They voice the subconscious fears and thoughts of the average Turk injected by a very biased and nationalistic educational system.
In short social media crowd in Turkey is young, progressive and active, yet still bound by the limits of a very traditional and closed-up society. When you follow their wisdom, sometimes the truth loses its meaning under a curtain of perceived facts replacing crude reality.
The hope of social media as a form of enlightenment lures in the horizon though. Internet users in Turkey increase exponentially each year. And as the penetration and pure number of people utilizing it would increase, the power of new media will be felt throughout the deepest corners of Turkish society. And I’m hoping among hopes that a new generation of well-versed young professionals would replace the supporters of status-quo in the media in the near future. They will be the golden key for Turkey to introduce its assets to the civilized world.