Cell phones are owned by overwhelmingly large majorities of people in most major countries around the world, and they are used for much more than just phone calls, particularly for SMS messaging and accessing social networks. In fact, text messaging is a global phenomenon: Across 21 countries surveyed by Pew Research, 75 percent of cell phone owners say they text.
The survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project, conducted March 21 to May 15, also found that social networking is popular in many nations around the globe. This is especially true in Israel (53 percent) and the United States (50 percent), where half or more say they use social networking Websites. More than four in 10 use these sites in Britain (43 percent), Russia (43 percent) and Spain (42 percent).
In 15 of 21 countries, at least 25 percent of those polled use social networking sites. However, in most of the countries surveyed, there has been only marginal change in social networking use since 2010. Two notable exceptions are Egypt and Russia-countries where the role of social media in recent political upheaval has been the subject of considerable attention. In both nations, usage has increased by 10 percentage points over the past year, from 18 percent in 2010 to 28 percent in 2011 in Egypt and from 33 percent to 43 percent in Russia.
Social networking varies considerably by age in almost all countries surveyed. In 13 of 21 countries, the majority of adults under age 30 use social networking sites. However, the only country in which even a quarter of those 50 or older engage in social networking is the United States (26 percent).
The survey also found that young people are more likely to use their cell phones for functions other than phone calls and they are much more likely to become involved in social networking. For instance, in nearly all countries, people aged 18 to 29 are more likely than those 50 or older to access the Internet on their mobile phone. Young people are also consistently more likely to use their cell phones for texting and taking pictures or video, the report found.
In nearly every country, the young and the well-educated are especially likely to embrace all of these technologies. People under the age of 30 and college graduates tend to use their cell phones for more purposes than those in older age groups and those without a college degree, and they are also more likely to use social networking sites.
Social networking is generally more common in higher income nations; however, this is largely driven by the fact that wealthier countries have higher rates of Internet access. People in lower income nations who have online access use social networking at rates that are as high, or higher, than those found in affluent countries.