In the latest profile of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos mentions an astonishing statistic: 2.2 billion people—”a third of humanity,” Osnos wrote—use Facebook at least once a month. If Facebook were a country, it’d be the largest in the world.
How do other popular social media sites compare to countries’ populations? Like Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube have monthly user-bases larger than the world’s two largest countries, China and India. Facebook’s Messenger app has a monthly user-base roughly equivalent to those two countries’ populations. And chat app WeChat (or Weixin, in Chinese) pulls in the equivalent of 76% of China’s population. (WeChat has become integral to many Chinese people’s lives.)
These numbers are a testament to the power of social media. Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Sina Weibo (China’s Twitter replica), QZone (China’s equivalent of Facebook), and Chinese messaging app QQ each attract more monthly users than there are people who live in the United States, the world’s third-largest country by population. It’s also a testament to the power of the social media companies themsleves; Facebook owns three of the world’s largest platforms (Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram), and Chinese company Tencent owns QQ, QZone, and WeChat.
Of the major social networking sites, only Pinterest and Snapchat had fewer users than the US had people, but they’d still both rank in the top 10 largest countries in the world.
Even massive countries around the world struggle to govern themselves, so perhaps it’s no surprise that companies like Facebook and Twitter have struggled to moderate the use (and abuse) of its platforms.