The Use and Abuse of Statistics: Recent Interpretations of the TNS Digital Life Study 1


so·cia·ble  (ssh-bl)adj.

1. Fond of the company of others; gregarious.
2. Marked by or affording occasion for agreeable conversation and conviviality. See Synonyms at social.

3. Pleasant, friendly, and affable.

Are you more sociable simply because you have more Facebook friends?  In an age when people can collect friends online, or PR agencies can buy you a set of friends, I find it difficult to associate sociability with a mere frequency count of online connections.  Yet, such a conclusion seems quite commonplace in the wake of the TNS Digital Life study.  I have read how Malaysians are most sociable and South Koreans are the least. 


Is someone smarter just because they have more books on their bookshelf?  The data simply tells us that Malaysia's Internet users are keeping a network which is on average larger in size compared to netizens in other nations.  A frequency count alone tells us nothing about what they are actually doing with that network, the richness of communication, or the quality of relationships.

Intuitively the claim rings true as I have found Malaysians extremely socialable; and it rings false because I have found South Koreans to be wonderful discussion partners.  But looking at the data used to support the claim, and the use of statistics, I hope businesses are not using such thinking to shape their online marketing and PR strategies.  We can do better.

One comment

  1. I agree. Looking at the report, I get the impression they are only tracking friends on Facebook and Linkedin etc ?If so the lower number of friendsfor South Koreans and Japanese can be easily explained. My understanding is that FaceBook isn’t popular in those countries (there are local equivalents which are dominant) , so if the report is only looking at social networks like Facebook, obviously they are going to find that South Koreans have fewer "friends". After all, if few of my friends are on facebook, I can’t have that many friends even if I wanted to?

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