From June 2011 to September 2015, the number of Facebook users in India grew from 28.5 million to 135 million, averaging a rate of about 2 million new users per month. As a share of the country's population, Facebook has gone from 2.4% to about 10%. As a share of India's online population, which has also been growing rapidly during this period, according to one estimate about half of India's Internet users use Facebook every day.
With so many people using Facebook in India, it raises the possibility that these users could be a representative sample of all Internet users. Unfortunately, data to test that presumption is not easy to come by, but if one accepted that in fact it is true, then one could view the following analysis as a study of Internet users as well.
The data below was collected over September and October 2015 using Facebook's advertising platform which provides a mean to segment the target audience. As such the data changes constantly as new users come onto Facebook.
To start with, Facebook usage in India is heavily dominated by males. Of the 135 million users in September, just over 100 million were males. The actual ratio of 3.1 males to every female is one of the highest in the world, and has barely budged compared to a year ago. In countries like the US, UK and France, there is more gender parity, and the disparity swings the other way with slightly higher usage by females. Even other developing countries like Brazil and South Africa, or Asian countries like Indonesia and Turkey, have parity or near parity. This disparity is more than likely reflected in overall Internet usage, and it might have policy implications for India as the government tries to promote more Internet penetration. The rest of the charts in this article highlight the male-female differences when appropriate.
Young people make up most of Facebook's users. The minimum age on Facebook is 13, while at the other end, everyone 65 and above are lumped together. Of this range, the median age on Facebook is 23 and just over 50% of its users are between the ages of 18 and 25. That is also one of the age ranges at which there is below-average male-to-female gender disparity among users, or put the other way, the number of women gets closer to the number of men. There are only 10 million users over the age of 40, which is about 7.5% of all users. In the national population of persons 13 and above, the median age is 32 and people over 40 make up about 37%, so they are hugely underrepresented on Facebook.
Just over half of all Facebook users in India mentioned having a college degree. Seventy-four persons out of a thousand mentioned having a master's degree, but only 12 out of every 100,000 users have a doctorate.
Of those who are in college, 8.4% are studying some form of engineering. The male-to-female ratio of engineering students on Facebook is a whopping 8 to 1. No other major subject registered even 1% of the users in college.
As part of their profile, Facebook lets users specify which languages they know. English is the default language for 97% of all Facebook users in India, but many users also specify other languages. Of those who specified a language, the most common Indian language other than English was Hindi. The other languages in the top five, in descending order, are Marathi, Tamil, Punjabi and Bengali. While users can choose many Indian languages, Facebook only reveals statistics for the ten mentioned in the chart above.
Among the users who specified the type of work they do, "Management" has the biggest share at nearly 10.7%. The gender ratio for Management matches that for all those who work and is approximately 5 males to every female. The only area of employment where there are more women represented than men is Nursing. In every other type of work, including education and personal care, there are more men than women. At the extreme, there are nearly 26 men to every woman from the military.
In the general population, Uttar Pradesh has 1.8 times as many people as Maharashtra, but on Facebook it is the other way around and Maharashtra has about 1.8 times as many users. In fact, nearly 15% of all Facebook users in India are from Maharashtra. Just six states, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and West Bengal contain 52.1% of all Facebook users in India.
Since Facebook's policy is that all users must be at least 13 years old, it makes sense to look at what portion of the population 13 and above uses Facebook. Nationally, it comes to about 150 people out of a 1,000. In Delhi that rises to 793 persons, whereas only 47 out of 1000 residents of Bihar are Facebook users. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have the fewest number of users as a share of the population with just 25.
If Facebook usage does in some way reflect overall Internet usage, then Bihar and neighbouring states Jharkand, Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Assam are lagging well behind the others on the digital highway.
People in India,at least on Facebook and to the extent that they specify a relationship status, are mostly either single or married. While 52.6% of women aged 23-27 are single, in the 28-32 year range 78.6% are married. For men the shift comes later, so 52.4% in the range 28-32 years are single and 74.5% in the range 33-37 are married.
A higher proportion of women than the overall Facebook ratio are willing to disclose their relationship status when it comes to being in a relationship, engaged or married, but far fewer disclose that they are single, divorced or separated.
While in India males outnumber females on Facebook in nearly every aspect, the two sexes come closest to being equal in number as parents. Among users who indicate that they are parents, there are 4 males to every 3 females.
Bucking the youth trend, there are more people over 38 years who say they are parents than under 38. There are also more people whose children are over the age of 12 than below.
Finally, looking at how users connect to Facebook, it is no longer a surprise that an overwhelming majority, nearly 90%, of Facebook usage occurs on mobile devices. Android is the most common OS among smartphones used to connect to Facebook. In percentages, Android is present on 94% of smartphones, iOS on 5% and Windows on 1%.
Nearly 60% of all mobile Facebook connections still take place over 2G. It is not possible to tell whether that is because users do not have 3G plans or whether it is due to the poor 3G infrastructure in the country. At present 4G forms a minuscule sliver of usage.
Of the desktop traffic, 99% are Windows-based. However, 46% of those are still using Windows XP, which was first released in October 2001 and was supplanted by Windows Vista in 2006. Finally, while Microsoft owns 99% of the desktops of Facebook users when it comes to operating systems, only 1% of Facebook users use Internet Explorer.
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