Malta is pretty much obsessed with social media – we have one of the highest per capita usages of social media in Europe, our authorities are known to most use social media to get insight into the nation, and local businesses are the leaders in Europe in terms of using social media to reach audiences. So what is it that makes us so drawn to it?
If you live in Malta and you have access to the internet it's almost certain that you use social media on a daily basis, and with 73% of our population being internet users, that's a lot of liking and sharing. The pattern is that the younger the user, the longer time they spend online – so this is far from a passing trend. It's our reality.
It follows then, that aside from its effectiveness in selling and 'reaching' audiences, the capacity for social media to shape our mood, socio-political outlook, and overall national psyche is also pretty huge. We are, by nature, sharers. And we have always been – long before Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram came along.
We are, by nature, sharers. And we have always been – long before Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram came along.
If you think about what kind of people Maltese people admire – or better still – if you ask about it, like we did, the overwhelming majority will point towards aspirational individuals who have overcome some brand of hardship or turmoil in their life. But it's not just that – they are also great communicators, unabashedly sharing their story with the nation with a level of frankness that plays right into our social media fanaticism.
Bjorn Formosa – an extremely public and social media savvy ALS awareness activist has over 4,000 more likes on his official page than Simon Busuttil – Malta's Leader of Opposition. A clear marker for where the Maltese nation's interests/heart lies. We're obsessed with local stories. Think back to how popular Tista' Tkun Int used to be. It was leader in family entertainment, playing into the national weakness expertly – tugging at those heart strings through the frank sharing of personal tragedies.
Of course, Malta wasn't the only place doing it, but the difference was – we actually knew these people. Or there was a good chance we could, anyway. Fast forward to today and we're living out our neighbours' personal traumas in Facebook groups like Survivors Malta, The Salott, Women for Women. They fill the gap that emotionally-charged talk shows left, and then some.
We're living out our neighbours' personal traumas in Facebook groups
The truth is, we're an extremely engaged nation – at every level of our existence. From the political – 94% of the population voted in the last general election – that's (obviously) a lot; to the domestic – try having a baby without every single member of your Maltese family having an opinion on how long you should breastfeed for, or which school your child should attend.
Social media for the Maltese is just an extension of that propensity to engage. It's a fix for our constant need to make ourselves heard, to be included in other people's stories. To make a difference, to stand out. To prove ourselves.
Social media is a fix for our constant need to make ourselves heard, to be included in other people's stories. To make a difference, to stand out. To prove ourselves.
The truth is that in Malta social media is a little bit different than it is elsewhere, in larger communities. Social media in large cities can, and has been proven to be, a lonely and alienating place – everything is surface value, it's representative not penetrative, it offers a groomed version of reality and as a result plays cruel games on people's sense of self worth and adequacy.
But in Malta – we know the truth. We know that even though Sarah posts fifteen selfies a day of herself in a bikini, she's still struggling to get over her ugly duckling phase that lasted her whole childhood. We know exactly how that picture of an amazingly hipster-looking lunch tastes, because we've tasted it too. It's impossible for us to feel alienated because we have equal proximity to the physical reality of our community as we do to the virtual one.
So sharing our stories on social media goes much deeper into who we are as Maltese people than just a usage statistic. It fills a constant need in our combined persona to know about other people, to express compassion, to gossip, and to spread news like wildfire.
So spread the word, whether you like it or not – social media is now firmly part of what makes us Maltese.