American researcher Katy Pearce specializes in technology and media use in the Former Soviet Union. According to her blog, “her research focuses on social and political uses of technologies and digital content in the transitioning democracies and semi-authoritarian states of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, but primarily Armenia and Azerbaijan”. In recent weeks she has charted the use of social media in the Caucasus – comparing the level of activity between Armenia, Azerbaijan and, to a certain extent, Georgia. What were her findings?
According to statistics in 2011, more Georgians and Armenians are active online than Azerbaijanis – on a weekly basis the percentage of adults online are roughly 30% of Armenians, 28% of Georgians, and 13% of Azerbaijanis.
In her research, Pearce has isolated a core group of the population of each country studied, extracting a ‘raw’ figure which consists solely of the adult population of each country – those which represent a majority of the population, and which will be more active online. Pearce explains:
“Armenia has 3,100,236 people, Azerbaijan 9,168,000 people, and Georgia 4,486,000 people – but that’s total population, we need to look at just adults (since that’s the data we have about Internet use – I fully acknowledge that teenagers are online and may be using social media). According to the World Bank, 20% of Armenians, 21% of Azerbaijanis, and 17% of Georgians are ages 0-14. So, let’s take them out of the equation..”
Overall, Pearce identified that “in raw numbers, although the largest proportion of frequent Internet users exists in Armenia, Georgia has the largest sheer number of frequent Internet users.” However, Pearce sites 2011 regional statistics which estimate that 6% of Armenians, 7% of Azerbaijanis, and 9% of Georgian were active on Facebook, with far less substantial activity on social mediums like Twitter, in 2011 and 2012.
Pearce estimates that the total number of Facebook users in Azerbaijan to be approximately 506,990 users, almost 5 times as many as in Armenia, where the estimated number is 148,811. Applying such statistics to her research, Pearce has analyzed some of the underlying reasons behind disparities in Facebook and Twitter usage amongst the three countries, namely the reasons behind Azerbaijan’s higher levels of usage. She has identified a few possible reasons underlying this:
“Because of the lack of free expression and assembly in Azerbaijan, most political discussion takes place on Facebook. Armenians can do this fairly freely in cafes or homes. Similarly, Armenians can organize and be political active in ways that Azerbaijanis cannot. Language is a big part of this…users of the Azerbaijani language are at a serious advantage over users of Armenian or Georgian because Azerbaijani uses the Latin script.”
Pearce also speculates, according to her own observations, that Azerbaijan generally has more of a social media scene than Armenia, explaining:
“This is entirely speculative, but I get the sense that Bakuvians are just way more wired than Yerevantsis are. The Baku social media scene, beyond politics, is always jumpin’! There are a ton of Azerbaijani Instagrammers, Pinteresters, and other social media platform users. I just don’t see that same sort of scene in Yerevan.”
What is your experience with social media usage in the Caucasus?
What do you think of Pearce’s findings? Share your thoughts!