IN spite of concerns over online trolling, data harvesting and privacy, new figures show nearly half of the world’s population are now on social media.

How many?

Globally, 3.8 billion people worldwide are now active social media users, according to social media management platform Hootsuite, which compiles an annual Social Media Trends report.

The world population is presently around 7.8 billion and as it grew by around 9% last year, it is likely that this is the last era in which it will be possible to say that less than half of the world’s population use social media.

The biggest platform?

Founded in February 2004, Facebook is still the giant in the field, with 2.4 billion active users per month. YouTube has around 2 billion and WhatsApp - which is owned by Facebook - has 1.6 billion, followed by Facebook Messenger, with around 1.3 billion monthly active users. China's own version of What'sApp, called WeChat, has 1.1 billion, while Instagram - also owned by Facebook - has around 1 billion. Twitter has around 330 million active monthly users.


The Chinese invention was the most installed app in the first quarter of last year and now boasts more than 800 million monthly active users. According to the Hootsuite report for 2020, TikTok users are spending around 46 minutes per day consuming the site’s videos, which are typically around only 15 seconds long.

Instagram are now looking to muscle in on the short addictive video clip domain with the release of a new feature, Reels, which allows users to set 15-second video clips to music, share them as Instagram Stories and enable users to have TikTok-style content without leaving the platform.

Growing concerns?

Data harvesting has been a key issue since it emerged in early 2018 that Cambridge Analytica had harvested the personal information of millions of Facebook profiles and used it without consent for political advertising purposes.

In recent days, other concerns have spiked, mainly the anonymity factor that social media allows which can see online trolling and bullying thrive in a largely unfettered environment.

Fake news?

Facebook’s decision not to limit how political adverts can be targeted to specific groups has sparked outrage, with many high profile users leaving the platform, including Star Wars actor Mark Hamill.

But social media is still on the rise?

As lesser developed markets catch up with infrastructure development, such as online access and the availability of cheaper mobiles, social media isn’t going anywhere soon.

But it may become private?

It seems like a contradiction in terms, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has pledged better protections for Facebook users after agreeing to pay a $550 million settlement in January over a lawsuit that claimed it illegally collected millions of users' biometric data. 

And other social media platforms could eventually take his lead, after he said: “I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today's open platforms. Privacy gives people the freedom to be themselves and connect more naturally.”