Mixi, Mixi, Mixi . . . You were once a dear friend. But your exclusiveness has finally gotten to me and it is hard to continually recommend you to Japanese learners. Don’t have a Japanese cell phone e-mail address? That whole .edu address signup thing not working for you? Can’t work your way through the complex Japanese interface that seems to constantly change? If only there was a social networking site that had all the features of Mixi, but none of its downsides.
I believe the reason Mixi continues with it’s “meant only for the Japanese market” is less because of an anti-outsider stance, but more because of its heavy concern over safety. By forcing Japanese cell phone registration, you have to provide your real identity, you are more easily tracked down if you do anything wrong, and this should result in decreases in incidences of stalkery/violence/crime. This is part of the reason why Mixi has always been a “don’t show any real pictures of yourself or provide any personal information in your profile.”
The slow move to Facebook
The Japanese story of arrival to Facebook is a bit interesting. Japanese people who were accustomed to the protectiveness of Mixi were a bit hesitant to sign on to Facebook when it finally reached Japan with a Japanese version (around 2008~2009?) Japan is often slow on using the rest of the world’s latest gadgets (see also Twitter and Smartphones), but they do come around. After a year or so of slow growth, Japanese people finally got what Facebook was about and have been using it now in full force for the past few years. Now is the perfect time to get on board and start making this a major study tool of yours.
The concept behind Mixi transfers to Facebook
The approach to Facebook to make Japanese friends and study Japanese is the same as what I’ve talked about with Mixi. Seek out Japanese people who want to talk and make friends with foreigners, but aren’t really that interested in learning English. Remember, you don’t want language exchange partners, you want Japanese friends.
Now I’m no expert on Facebook manners, but there are some basic principles people usually abide to. The number one manner is probably “don’t randomly send out friend requests to people you don’t know.” Then again, maybe this no longer applies, and I’m recalling etiquette from when I first started using Facebook in college? Either way, you are here to make Japanese friends and use Japanese. This is different, and you can let your manners slide a bit.
Let’s break this into 6 simple steps:
1. Find Facebook Fan Pages with a lot of Japanese members in them. Like them. Don’t know where to start? In the search box, try typing in some Japanese keywords that match your interests.
Don’t know where to start? How about the Japanese Level Up Facebook Page? While this was created a while ago, I never actually did anything with it. However, I’m finally turning it into what a Facebook Page should be, full of fun and exciting material about Japan and Japanese that should be very engaging to anyone who uses JALUP. There are many native Japanese users who have already joined and I am aggressively getting more. Also, I plan on being very active with the users, so feel free to consider this the closest thing to a forum on JALUP.
2. Start looking at some of the posts and comments by Japanese people on the fan page. Be generous with the like button. Leave messages in addition to the “likes.” Even just a few words is fine. People appreciate it that much more when you actually respond to what they say, rather than just give a lazy thumbs up. And in case this isn’t obvious, make sure your messages are in Japanese!
3. After liking and messaging on peoples’ posts, send them a friend request, and make sure to include a message in Japanese. Here is a good sample of what it should look like, but personalize it however you want. And try to include something about the Fanpage you found them on. Also, be generous with cute emoticons.
(Your Name) です。(Fanpage name)のファンページから来ました。突然メッセージをしてすみません。私は日本が大好きで (Japanese person’s name)さんはとても面白そうな方ですのでメッセージをしました。もし良かったら友達になって頂けませんか。
How it roughly translates into English
Nice to meet you!
I’m (Your Name). I came from the fanpage (Fanpage name). I’m sorry if this message is kind of sudden. I love Japan and you look like a very interesting person, so I decided to message you. If it’s okay, will you become my friend?
I’m looking forward to your reply! ^_^
I’m aware of how ridiculously corny this sounds, but it is similar to the messages I used to constantly receive on Mixi, and it works.
4. Repeat step 3 several times. Don’t go too overboard, as the point is to try to develop friendships with these people, not collect friends like Pokemon. It is hard to keep up with friendships when numbers grow too high. Of course don’t expect every friendship to work out. It takes time to find people who you can really connect with.
5. Message your new friends. Comment on their feeds. Try to get to know their other Japanese friends. Do all the Facebooky things you do normally.
6. Have fun. While you are going in with a strong purpose of learning Japanese, you may develop some amazing and lifelong friendships. And eventually you may even find people who live near you and you can actually hang out with in person.
Don’t wait too long. The tides are changing.
Now I’m sure Facebook as a whole will be around for a long time (though who really knows for how long). However, Japanese are fickle when it comes to changing technologies and trends, and while they are sometimes slow to jump onto the next new thing, they are very quick at abandoning them.
Japanese are already starting to move onto the new Japan-created mobile social network Line. Its user base is growing rapidly from it’s launch date on June of 2011. I don’t know the numbers, but I have a feeling that a lot of users are already leaving Facebook usage for Line usage (though there are some differences in what Line actually does, which may eventually change to catch more Facebook users).
I’ll eventually write up an article on Line to keep up with the latest tools.
More Facebook Tactics?
How have you used Facebook to make Japanese friends and study Japanese? What are some of your best methods? Any Facebook Pages you recommend?
Note: Please do not use the comments section of this post to give out your personal info and ask to meet Japanese people. All comments related to this will be deleted. If you want someone to study with, register here. And if you want to find Japanese people to become friends with, contact people directly through Facebook.