Religion, politics, sports… What people around the world do and do not talk about on social media

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You probably think you know pretty well in which settings it is or isn’t OK to raise touchy subjects like religion or politics. But on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites, the rules of conversational engagement are still a work in progress.

Different countries are writing those rules differently. A recent survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center, shows how common it is in each of 20 countries to talk about politics, religion, sports, and music or movies on social media. There are some surprising differences.

Europeans generally talk politics online less than people in the Americas. Middle Easterners are the most voluble of all, which is no surprise given the recent Arab Spring. The exception is Lebanon, which didn’t participate in last year’s upheavals, but where decades of on-and-off civil war have created politics fatigue. The Chinese are pretty diffident, no doubt due to censorship; yet in Japan, as free a country as any, politics is hardly discussed at all.

Discussion of religion is all over the place: remarkably low in deeply Catholic Poland, unsurprisingly high in the Middle East, and considerably higher than politics in China. France and Mexico score among the lowest, perhaps because historic disputes over the role of religion and state have long since been resolved in favor of the separation of the two. But in Turkey, where the secularist program of Kemal Ataturk is now in question again, it’s a hot topic of discussion.

Naturally, pop culture is a popular topic everywhere—but it’s the Chinese who lead the field by a hair. And while Brits and Americans may believe themselves to be sport-obsessed nations, we have news for you: you’ve got nothing on the Indians.

A chart showing what people in 20 different countries are willing to share on social media