Social media usage trends in India since 2014: growth across platforms, user profile
Since the 2014 elections in Lok Sabha, when social media made its debut in India’s election campaign, Lokniti-CSDS has asked about the use of various SM platforms in all of its election polls. They allowed us not only to analyze the influence of SM on voting preferences, but also to follow the growth of SM platforms, the regularity of their use and the profile of users. As SM companies come under intense pressure from the government to comply with or suffer the consequences of its new IT rules, it may be useful to highlight some of these survey results to give some idea of the scope SM platforms and what is at stake for them, their users. and the government.
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Utilization and growth, 2014-19
In his study of the 2019 national elections, Lokniti asked citizens of voting age how often they used five SM platforms – Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube. WhatsApp, which launched in 2009 and recently sued the government complaining that the new digital rules violate its privacy protections, has become the most popular with 34% of them (regular and rare users combined) (table 1).
Next is Facebook, existing in India since 2006, which is 32% used, followed closely by YouTube, which started in 2005, at 31%. Instagram, which arrived on the scene in 2010, was used by 15% of adults, and Twitter, operational since 2006, was the least popular with 12% of users. It’s hard to say why Twitter has performed poorly, but one possible reason could be its more textual and less visual nature. You have to see how much its latest audio chat room feature helps it grow.
Interestingly, Twitter has also lagged behind others in terms of its users’ propensity to use it on a daily basis. While 85% of WhatsApp users, 81% of YouTube users, 72% of Facebook users and 60% of Instagram users reported using them on a daily basis, among Twitter users the figure was well below 42 %.
In terms of growth, most of the platforms for which longitudinal data is available recorded impressive increases between 2014 and 2018, but subsequently experienced a slowdown. The use of Facebook and Twitter, for example, increased from 9% and 2% in 2014 to 20% and 5% in 2017, then to 32% and 14% in May 2018. However, between 2018 and May 2019, the Facebook usage has remained the same. according to our data, and the use of Twitter has seen a marginal decline. WhatsApp showed a similar trend between 2018 and 2019, without much growth.
So, has this slowdown persisted since 2019 or have platforms seen a good increase in usage again? While we don’t have recent national data to examine this, data from our surveys in five states that have gone to the polls in the past six months – Bihar, Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu – offer clues. solid. These states taken together are fairly representative of the national trend as they recorded very similar numbers of MS use in 2019 to the rest of India (Table 1).
Finally, we note that the user base of all SM platforms has a very similar social profile. Their use is much higher among men than women and among those with a college education, young people, upper castes and relatively well-off backgrounds (Table 2).
This similarity may be largely a function of smartphone ownership which, as pointed out in a previous article in this series by Manjesh Rana, is also higher precisely among these categories.
Any government crackdown on SM platforms in the future is therefore likely to affect these relatively privileged social groups the most, although it should be added that our data suggests that SM use has also increased quite significantly since then. 2019 among marginalized communities – Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims, indicating a progressive ‘democratization’ of the SM space.