By Nur Özkan Erbay / WASHINGTON DC
At the strategic crossroads of Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Turkey has ignited a largely overlooked yet immense social media explosion.
The engagement with Social Media has increased rapidly in the country with the high penetration of Internet usage. Turkey hits record number to engage with Social Medias and Social Networking which also raise many questions regarding the impact of social media in Turkish society.
With over 35 million people or 44% of its population using the internet, Turkey is the 3rd most engaged online audience in Europe, and 5th in the world. Virtually all internet users in Turkey (96%) interact with social media. (Internet World Stats, April 2012).
Turkish users are watching an average of 200 videos per month and posting 20 tweets per second (webrazzi.com). They spend an average of 32.7 hours online consuming 3,706 pages per month, altogether consuming a whopping 13.1 billion minutes in a month on Facebook alone. (ComScore, October 2011).
And the real-world repercussions of this virtual world expansion in Turkey? Seismic.
During the last devastating earthquake in city of Van, eastern Turkey, hashtags like #van and #deprem (earthquake in Turkish) trended instantly, being tweeted hundreds of times per second as people shared information on how to help and what to donate. According to Time Magazine Ahmet Tezcan, a prominent Turkish journalist with 32,000 followers has posted a tweet offering his spare apartment to a family in need. He suggested others do the same. Within hours, thousands of people had emailed the "My house is your house" #EvimEvindirVan campaign, offering their homes. As a result of the campaign's success, Istanbul governor's office has taken charge to launch a 24 hour hotline where people can apply to stay or host. (Time.com, October 2011)
Politicians Among The Top Twitter personalities
In the wider political sphere, Turkish politicians have made Obama's savvy ground-breaking use of social media into standard fare during the June 2011 general elections. Among the top ten personalities on Twitter in Turkey are President Abdullah Gül with 1.7 million followers, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan with 1.3 million, and the main opposition party CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu with 0.6 million.
These effects and more are explored in a book newly released in Turkey, We Are All Global, We Are All Local: A Journey from the Gutenberg Galaxy to the Zuckerberg Galaxy, edited by Dr. Edibe Sozen. With contributions authored by journalists, academicians, and other experts from Turkey the United States, Indonesia, and Germany, it is one of the first extensive studies of social media in Turkey.
The book names the new social sphere in our times as "The Zuckerberg Galaxy" and elaborates on the schools of thought that are at the forefront of explaining this new galaxy.
As the book opens a new chapter on Social Media Studies in Turkey, Sozen presents the emphasis on the idea that social media offers a new public sphere that involves new actors, actions and expressions.
Sozen notes that the most active users in Turkish society are journalists, intellectuals, artists, and students. "Turkish people use social networking to share their ideas and expertise as well as to follow and get in touch with prominent or famous figures in politics, media, cultural and social life," she writes. Social media platforms are also favorite places for heated discussions on current social and political issues in the country. "The new constitution process, the Kurdish question, the terrorism question, Turkish foreign policy, Arab uprisings, and other recent developments in the Middle East are top discussion topics," says Sozen.The book also also analyzes an archeology of social media, the practices of social media in education, government, social movements and political elections as well as the eco-politics of the