Anthropology of Social Media

Everyday Use of Social and Mobile Media in Malaysia

In Malaysia, broadband internet penetration is measured at 72.2% of households (MCMC 2015a: 3), with 87.1% of internet users reporting using social media (MCMC 2015b).  Mobile phone subscriptions are ubiquitous, at 144.2 per 100 inhabitants, with 53.4% of these reporting owning a ‘smartphone’ (MCMC 2014: 6, 29).

This means that the majority of Malaysians are able to communicate with their family, friends, and colleagues wherever and whenever they want, and get near-instantaneous responses.

This research focuses on how computer-mediated communication in general, and social media in particular, are becoming integral parts of the everyday relationships that matter to individuals and communities. It asks questions about how people use social and mobile media with regard to their close family, extended family, close friends, other friends, and work colleagues.

There were two parts to the data gathering:
1. Online survey, November-December 2015. 279 responses were gathered.
2. Personal interviews, January 2016. Nineteen interviews (9 female, 10 male) were conducted.

Some more information is on the Facebook page.

The data is still being analysed, but the main finding so far is that WhatsApp is by far the most popular social/mobile media application, and that users are more likely to use Facebook to communicate with people who are less close to them – i.e. WhatsApp is preferred for stronger ties, and Facebook for weaker ties.

The survey data suggested that in the workplace WhatsApp was more likely to be used by younger respondents, but interviews suggested a connection with institutional policies and practices.

Download a preliminary discussion of the results that was presented at the Digital Ethnography Research Centre, RMIT in February 2016.


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