12 Apr

Social media and bullying in Azerbaijan

This week a young woman in Azerbaijan took her own life as a result of possible bullying. Video of the act and subsequent events were widely shared and discussed on social media. As a result, many Azerbaijanis are discussing the problem of bullying in schools. Here’s a summary of the case in English.

Here’s a NodeXL hashtag analysis of #BullinqəSon (End Bullying)

Here’s a NodeXL hashtag analysis of #Elinaüçünsusma (Don’t be silent about Elina) — this is more popular

Some caveats here regarding any sort of hashtag analysis:

  •  Twitter data downloads like this are always incomplete, as it is impossible to get the full dataset.
  • The results are a little skewed because a lot of the users are tweeting at the President and First Lady to do something. Obviously they have a lot of followers, so a lot of these “importance” metrics are impacted by that.
  • Twitter isn’t a great venue to consider Azerbaijani public discussion of such topics, in particular this one that is of great interest to young people. I’ve seen far more on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, etc. I can only imagine WhatsApp has a great deal of this as well.
  • Social media are always performative. The need to let one’s audience know that they care about this issue is not always the same as discussion about solutions.
  • Social media “influencers” sometimes feel compelled to have a hot take on the topic of the day and sometimes they’ll say provocative things because it leads to more engagement. There have been a few “celebrities” in Azerbaijan, especially on Instagram, doing this. I wouldn’t take this as the complete story.

And some general thoughts on social media campaigns, with a bullying angle. I’m not a bullying expert, but I’ve talked to people that are and these thoughts are influenced by that. (Thanks to them! Especially Lindsay Blackwell and her excellent work on cyberbullying.)

  • For campaigns to be taken seriously by young people, they need to feel sincere. I’m under the impression that some of these campaigns have been started by people that young people in Azerbaijan may not follow and that may not be entirely relatable. Decades of research shows that adult-created campaigns aimed at youth frequently fail. I worked on an environmental campaign aimed at middle school and high school students and I cannot even begin to tell you how much money was spent on materials that the young people laughed at. We ran focus groups to see what sort of messages resonated with the young people and where they were most likely to be influenced (both media channels and with peers) and it was entirely different from what the campaign organizers had done.
  • Campaigns need to be multifaceted, especially when there is a goal of behavioral change. There is currently criticism that schools are securing windows (the young woman jumped out of a window), but at the same time, such an act is probably a good idea and can be done immediately. It does not mean that the school is not working on other strategies and actions to reduce bullying and its effects.
  • Who is the target of the campaign? Is it bullies asking them to not bully other children? Is it those that are the victims of bullying telling them to be strong? Or is it potential bystanders, asking them to intervene? The messages will be different!
    • With bystanders in particular, which is the hypothetical largest audience, in any campaign, people need to be told what to do. For example, in the US, there was a campaign about forest fires that said “Only you can prevent forest fires” but the campaign did not actually tell people how to prevent forest fires! So, in the bullying case, potential bystanders need instructions about what to do if they see a classmate being bullied. (And at least at my own child’s school, there is an entire curriculum about this from the very early years.)
    • Victims need different messaging about what they can do as well as a sense that there are others out there experiencing bullying. According to my expert colleagues, bullying feels very isolating and it is hard to see that there are others in the same position. So campaigns whereby people disclose that they were bullied and what they did about it can be helpful.
    • The bullies themselves are also children and conventional wisdom says that children that are bullies are not infrequently subject to problems at home, have mental health issues, etc. – they also need help.
    • Schools and parents also need help! Law enforcement too!
  • For campaigns to be effective with young people, the message needs to also be relatable and from an authentic figure. For example, a gorgeous 30-year-old actress saying that she was bullied in school may not be believable in the eyes of a 13-year-old who sees that actress leading a glamorous life and looking beautiful. We see that a bit with the “It Gets Better” type campaigns with celebrity focuses versus “#metoo” whereby the majority of the messaging comes from “regular” people.
  • Figuring out who is influential among young people in Azerbaijan (and on what platform) but still relatable and if that person did in fact experience bullying (and it is believable that they did) or perhaps they were an intervening bystander would be a very good tactic. In fact, in the words of one of my bullying expert colleagues, that would be infinitely more helpful than a Ministry of Education campaign that takes months or years to design.
  • Decades of research shows that suicide has a potential copycat effect. It is incredibly irresponsible for media outlets (and individual users) to share the video where this young woman takes the action.
  • In Azerbaijan there are laws related to suicide and it is a criminal offense to “cause” someone to commit suicide. I have to admit that this seems strange to me as an American. Certainly it is not possible to demonstrate this beyond reasonable doubt and the mental health issues that those considering suicide are facing are numerous. There is a great deal of social media speculation about this young woman’s family, the role that the school administration played or didn’t play in her death, the young woman’s romantic and sexual life, etc. In my opinion, such discussions do little to help anyone – those grieving or those trying to reducing bullying and its effects.

As a takeaway, although tragic, as a result of this young woman’s death, the very real problem of bullying in schools is now being discussed more widely in Azerbaijan and that is a good thing. Those that want to try to help – both immediately and in the long term – would be well-advised to look at the existing work on anti-bullying campaigns before jumping in.

04 Dec

Facebook in Armenia, December 2018


It has been awhile since I last blogged about Facebook use in the Caucasus. Again, here is a guide to how I get these data. Click on the tags for previous rates – here’s September 2017, here is May 2018.

As of December 2018, there are about 1,400,000 Facebook users in Armenia, according to Facebook. That is 47% of the total population, and 43% of the population over age 14 (Facebook technically isn’t available to those under 13.) There is a bit of growth since May 2018 when Facebook ads estimated 1,200,000 users (40% of the population), but I would be cautious to attribute this to the Velvet Revolution. About 100,000 new Armenians join Facebook each quarter or so anyway.

As far as gender, 44% of the total male population, or 57% of males over age 14 are on Facebook. 48% of the total female population, or 49% of the female 14+ population. So there are some gender differences, but probably within the margin of error.

Just looking at the 15-24 year olds, 87% of them are on the site, 86% of young men and 92% of young women. These numbers have been fairly steady for a few years, with many young women on the site for awhile. 2016 seemed to be the big leap here.

Some trends to look for – as in the rest of the world, young people are moving more toward Instagram. Everyone is moving toward WhatsApp and other private messaging services.

22 Oct


I received tenure in September 2018. If you see something out on the web that lists me as assistant professor, please let me know.

17 Jun

Urbanness and Facebook in Azerbaijan


Click here for other posts about Facebook use in the South Caucasus. Here is a guide to how I get these data.

Years of empirical research show that Internet use is far more common in cities than in rural areas and this continues to be true in Azerbaijan.

As of June 2018, 32% of the total population of Azerbaijan is on Facebook, 30% of the 14+ age population. That’s 44% of men and 21% of women.

60% of 15-24 year olds are on Facebook, 78% of men and 41% of women.

But, in looking at geography, 81% of all Facebook users in Azerbaijan are within 25 miles (~40 km) of the capital, Baku and if one only looks at women, 87% of female Facebook users in Azerbaijan are within 25 miles of Baku.

09 May

Facebook in Armenia, May 2018


It has been awhile since I last blogged about Facebook use in the Caucasus. Again, here is a guide to how I get these data. Click on the tags for previous rates – here’s September 2017.

As of May 2018, there are about 1,200,000 Facebook users in Armenia, according to Facebook. That is 40% of the total population, and 37% of the population over age 14 (Facebook technically isn’t available to those under 13.)

As far as gender, 40% of the total male population, or 51% of males over age 14 are on Facebook. 43% of the total female population, or 49% of the female 14+ population. So there are some gender differences, but probably within the margin of error.

Just looking at the 15-24 year olds, 87% of them are on the site, 82% of young men and 92% of young women. (These numbers dropped a bit since last September).

30 Apr

Political change in Armenia

Armenia experienced its most profound political change since becoming independent when former President and briefly Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan resigned. Sargsyan served two terms as president of Armenia, but in 2015, he changed the constitution which moved Armenia from a semi-presidential system to a parliamentary one. Then, despite promising otherwise, he was elected Prime Minister by his party immediately after his last presidential term ended this month.

This sparked a protest organized by opponents to Sargsyan, opposition coalition Yelk (Way Out), but mostly the Civil Contract Party. These efforts were lead by charismatic multilingual 42-year-old opposition MP Nikol Pashinyan. Pashniyan is no newcomer, he has been battling Sargsyan for a decade.

I’m writing about the protests in other venues, but one of my main points is that Armenians were READY for this. Here are some analyses from the Caucasus Barometer to support this. (The CB has some nice online data analysis tools, but I made my own graphics to show some points better visually).

Armenians don’t trust Sargsyan [link to CB].

This line graph shows that the trust/distrust threshold was crossed in 2010 and for the past few years, very few Armenians trusted Sargsyan and many distrusted him.

This is a bar graph version of above. You can see that trust basically swapped.

Similarly, people were unhappy with the direction that politics were going on [link to CB].

Although don’t knows and refuse to answers were high, in the past few years, very few Armenians felt that the country was going in the right direction.

Armenians have been fairly consistent in their opinion about Armenia being a democracy [link to CB].

Election fraud and manipulation was widely connected with Sargsyan and the CB shows it [link to CB].

Additionally, Armenians are pretty keen on criticizing their government and protesting against it. [Link to CB on being critical] [Link to CB on protest]

Also, compared to Azerbaijan and Georgia, Armenians are especially keen on these things. (These are from the 2013 CB, the last that compared all 3 countries – critical, protest).


Added May 1 – trust toward Parliament [link to CB]

18 Apr

Facebook in Azerbaijan, April 2018

It has been quite awhile since I last blogged about Facebook use in the Caucasus. Again, here is a guide to how I get these data. Click on the tags for previous rates.

According to Facebook, as of April 2018, around 2,900,000 Azerbaijanis, about 30% of the total population, or more accurately, 28% of the population over age 14, are on Facebook.

Over half of all Azerbaijani men (over age 14) are on Facebook (well, 55%) and 26% of Azerbaijani women (over age 14) are on Facebook. This has been the trend for as long as I’ve been tracking this.

Looking at just youth, about 56% of Azerbaijanis ages 15-24 use Facebook. 73% of males that age and 37% of females that age. In September of 2016, 58% of young men were on the site while 31% of young women were. It seems that there was a huge growth in use by young men, but much less with young women.

As always, these numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt. This is information from Facebook ads.

05 Dec

Books in childhood households, Eurasia, 2015


The EBRD Life in Transition survey from 2015 asked participants about their childhood – “About how many books were in your childhood home? Do not count magazines, newspapers, or school books.”

Books in the childhood home is frequently used as a predictor of future educational attainment. But I’m curious for another reason. Some people argue that Azerbaijan, as a whole, isn’t as interested in reading/literacy/education as some other countries. This seemed like an interesting way to test this. Now of course, books cost money, so there is a tremendous influence of wealth here. Also note the high don’t knows in Azerbaijan – people are nervous about taking surveys there.

05 Dec

Political system preferences in Eurasia, 2015

I’ve been playing with the 2015 EBRD Life in Transition survey dataset for the past few days. I saw an interesting question about political system preferences.

Whereby people were asked to agree most with one of these statements:
* Democracy is preferable to any other form of political system

* Under some circumstances, an authoritarian government may be preferable
to a democratic one

* For people like me, it does not matter whether a government is democratic
or authoritarian

or don’t know

The results were pretty exciting. We have to acknowledge, of course, that many people know that the “right” answer is “democracy!!!!” so there is some social desirability at play here. But nonetheless, the results are telling.

Check out all of those “don’t knows” in Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan!

04 Dec

Azerbaijan – 2015 sources of information

The EBRD Life in Transition survey changed their wording on this question quite a bit this wave, so it is difficult to compare to the past. But here I present the frequency of Azerbaijanis using various media as an information source.  The question says: “People use different sources to learn what is going on in their country and the world. For each of the following sources, please indicate how often you use it:” with a variety of choices from never to daily.

I find the talking with others at 73% really interesting. As comparison, here are other countries in the region: