Even though Russia got into social networking relatively late compared to western countries, the country is seeing a social media boom now. 2010 was the year of tremendous growth in social media use in Russia and modern research data show that the country has turned into the fourth largest market in Europe for social networking. Moreover Russians appear to be the most engaged social networking audience, Russian women being a hefty part of it. They spend 9.8 hours per visitor on a monthly basis on such sites—more than double the world average, according to comScore.
The researches offer the following reasons to this tendency: Russia is a vast country with a number of time zones and a population of 142,905,208 (2010 census). And thus social networks and online communities are a way of connecting people from one corner of the country to the other. People in Russia stay at home more because of the cold climate and therefore use the internet more extensively. In addition, citizens of many Russian cities have to cope with the physical isolation due to poor city infrastructure.
Internet penetration is increasing in Russia, and the growth of social networks is accompanying this. When people go online for the first time they appear to be joining and using social networks almost immediately. Today Russian women make 45 percent of Internet users and many assume that Internet is the essential part of their lives. The number of young women in social networks in Russia is equal to the number of men and exceeds it as the age of users grows. For example Vkontakte statistics shows that there are more male users up to the age of 34. After 35 the proportions change and female users outnumber males. Women go online to seek information, read news, watch films, share photos, chat with friends and shop. Lots of Russian women solve personal problems with the help of Internet as it offers wonderful means to get advice and online counseling while staying anonymous.
Russia’s largest social networking sites and the biggest competitors are Odnoklassniki (Classmates) and Vkontakte. Both were launched in 2006 and have around 100 million registered users and almost equal number of daily unique visitors (around 20 mln). Both services are popular in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus and other former Soviet republics. Both networks are predominantly occupied by the younger generation, but Vkontakte is mostly for teenagers. Vkontakte is completely overwhelmed with adverts, groups, and spammers. However the website has powerful photo and video hosting, a simple messaging system, groups that users can participate in, and notes. Vkontakte also offers a possibility to create public pages, which lets organizations and businesses promote their services. Odnoklassniki identifies people by the school, where they studied, universities which they graduated and jobs they have/had or even by places of military service. In general this site is for communication of classmates and old friends. It also has such features as picture galleries, groups and chat.
Despite homegrown social network sites the world's largest social network site Facebook is successfully penetrating the Russian market and has lots of funs. The number of accounts has reached 500 000 000. Other popular social networks among Russians include Moi Mir (MySpace) - 100 000 000 accounts, Twitter - 200 000 000 accounts and a number of new smaller in size networks.
Live journal (aka ЖЖ) enjoys continued and growing importance among Russians. Today, LiveJournal's Russian-speaking audience counts over 31 000 000 accounts which greatly outnumbers any alternative native blogging platform - such as Liveinternet.ru or Diary.ru. Russian females make over 60% of users of Live journal. In Russia, LiveJournal's primary function has shifted from social networking to blogging. Some of its top bloggers already match major national publications' readership number and make the headlines of the news websites. One of most famous Russian women-bloggers is Elizaveta Glinka – or Doctor Liza as she has been nicknamed by the Live Journal Community. A emergency physician by profession, she organized a non-profit group Spravedlivaya Pomosh (Fair Aid), which helps those left without shelter or family. Doctor Liza is not only rendering medical treatment to them but bringing their stories to the Internet masses. Another popular blogger is online newspaper Vzglyad columnist and Kommersant journalist Natalya Radulova who often brings up the topics of relationship between sexes.
Social networks in Russia do not only serve for communication. They help the government connect with the community, are extensively used by Russian police, security service, Inspection of the Federal Tax service and all kind of businesses and associations that post adds and start opinion polls, provide customer support and headhunt professionals, monitor conversation about themselves, provide updates on products and gain customer feedback and opinion.
Social networks have become a meeting place for single Russian girls and are winning the popularity contest with the dating sites. They however attract a great number of online dating scammers that target victims not only on the specialized dating sites but also on social networks.
Online communities help unite associations and groups in order to lure more people into their activity and even launch political campaigns, like it is with the Putin’s Army – a group of young Russian girls supporting Vladimir Putin who runs for the Russian presidency. The group living in a popular Russian social networking site Vkontakte asks other women to post videos of them tearing off their clothes for the candidate.
Since Russia is rising in Internet population, the problem of Internet addiction comes along. The greater number of people use computer excessively so that it interferes with their daily life and even changes the personality. Internet addiction includes constant expectation of new emails and instant messages, when disconnected, anticipation of next time the user is online and relatives and close ones complaining of funneling too much money into virtual reality. Spending time in social networks and playing online games, especially online gambling are also signs of severe Internet addiction. The people suffering from internet addiction spend long hours in front of the computer, often forget to eat and sleep, miss work or studies, break up with friends and family. Loads of various information a person absorbs from the web causes tension and alarm. Family quarrels and problems at work add fat to the fire. Psychologists in Russia say addiction to the World Wide Web has begun affecting the teenaged population in the country and could be on the same level as other social problems such as drug and alcohol dependency. Recent data suggests that between five and 14 percent of Russians show symptoms of internet addiction. A typical case would be a troubled teenager - who logs on to the internet - but finds it difficult to form real-life relationships.
However Russian women make a considerable percentage of internet addicts. The preferences are different though. While most men are absorbed with online gambling, women approach Internet as a source of communication, relief and the problem solving means. Users of numerous female forums and blogs as well as communities on social network discuss the same problems, the major part of which is about men. A great number of women go online and register on numerous chats, social networks. They upload gigabytes of photos just because they seek attention. Whether a woman married or not, she always needs to feel special and interested in, even though the compliments she gets come from the person she might never see. Online communication helps a woman forget about daily problems, misunderstanding in the family and lack of finances. Internet addiction is a real problem for single Russian girls and becomes the only way to cope with loneliness. Dating sites and social networks give a chance to feel important and desirable as well as the hope to meet the Prince Charming. For some women online flirting games totally replace the real life relationships.
Psychologists advice not to put pressure on the internet addict, but rather try to increase real life communication gradually but constantly. Staying out in nature, sports and hobbies can be a great deal of help.
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