And use of online social networks grew dramatically in Egypt and Russia over the past year, most likely as part of the recent political upheavals in those countries.
These are among the results of a new report that measured the usage of digital communication in 21 countries. The survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found that text messaging is now a widespread global phenomenon: In the countries polled, 75% of cell phone owners say they text.
In almost all the countries surveyed, the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter didn't change much from 2010 to 2011. Two notable exceptions were Egypt, where 28% of respondents now use social networks -- up from 18% last year -- and Russia, where social-networking use rose from 33% to 43%.
Facebook and other networking tools played a prominent role in the revolution that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February. Protesters organized so effectively on social networks that the Egyptian government shut down the Internet for five days in an unsuccessful attempt to quell the uprising.
Observers say social networks also have helped mobilize protesters in Moscow, where tens of thousands have filled the streets to speak out against Russian parliamentary elections they say were rigged. The Pew survey found that only 6% of Internet users in Russia were not on social-networking sites.
Researchers conducted the survey face-to-face and via telephone in the spring of this year. Sample sizes in each country ranged from 700 in Japan to more than 4,000 in India.
Among the survey's other findings:
-- Of the countries surveyed, text messaging was most common in Indonesia and Kenya, where 96% and 89% of people said they regularly send texts. By contrast, 67% of people in the United States were frequent texters.
-- In Spain, 29% of male cell phone owners use their devices to access the Internet, compared to 13% of female phone owners. This mobile-Web gender gap was also pronounced in Germany (26%/11%) and in Turkey (30%/14%).
-- Social networking is generally more common in wealthier nations, largely driven by the fact that they have higher rates of Internet access. For example, 53% of respondents in Israel and 50% of respondents in the U.S. said they use social networks, compared with 5% in India and 2% in Pakistan.