Social Media Usage, Social Relations, and a Sense of Community in Indonesia

Social Media Usage, Social Relations, and a Sense of Community in Indonesia

Hamideh Molaei (Department of Media and Communications, The University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICST.2014070104
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Because of their participatory nature, social media can facilitate and accelerate social relationships, but their functions may vary from one cultural context to another. This article aims to investigate whether social media usage affects social relations and a sense of community in Indonesia, a country dominated by a collectivist culture. Based on a qualitative analysis of in-depth interviews with Indonesian journalists, social media experts, and media scholars, the author concludes that social media enhance social relationships in Indonesia in two different ways: first, by facilitating and extending social relationships within the existing offline networks of friends; and, second, by contributing to the spirit of togetherness and solidarity among the members of a community.
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Since its inception, the Internet has provided many opportunities for communication through applications such as email, chat-rooms, discussion boards and Usenet (Di Gennaro & Dutton, 2007). Because of their participatory nature, social media can facilitate and accelerate social relationships. As to Gilbert and Karahalios (2009), “relationships make social media social” (p. 1). Internet users have more opportunities to establish friendships with a broader network of friends compared to non-users, a point particularly true about those who access social media (Hampton, Lee, & Her, 2011). Miller (2008) finds that an essential part of network sociality that relates to both initiating and maintaining social relationships depends on technological facilities. Miller further argues that maintaining, storing, and retrieving a large network of contacts would be difficult—even impossible—without the use of blog rolls, email lists, text messages, and mobile phones.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are collections of technological tools and features that allow users to establish and keep their networks of social connections (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2011). As Ledbetter, Mazer, DeGroot, Meyer, Mao, and Swafford (2011) stipulate, social networking sites are mostly appreciated by users for the affordances that help them to engage in networked interpersonal relationships. One of the most important factors considered when designing social media is the “sociability” aspect. According to Zhao, Lui, Tang, and Zhu (2013), the term “sociability” refers to people’s interactions with each other through supporting technologies. For example, the “friending” feature of Facebook, how users can invite each other to become friends, has facilitated interaction and communication as it provides them with better and greater access to profile information and more communication features (Ellison et al., 2011). Facebook affordances such as fan pages, networks, groups, photographs and social game applications not only have made it possible for people to communicate with their offline networks, but also they have provided a new opportunity for users to initiate a new relationship with strangers (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Ellison et al., 2011).

In concert with the growth of the Internet, especially social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, research on different aspects of online social relationships has also increased. Sample research investigations focus on different aspects of online social relationships such as:

  • Relationship between online and offline interactions and the possibilities online media offer to offline relationships (Ali-Hasan & Adamic, 2007);

  • Quality of online and offline relationships (Cummings, Butler & Kraut, 2002; Mesch & Talmud, 2006; Mesch & Talmud, 2007);

  • The Internet, making new friends, and re-configuring social networks (Di Gennaro & Dutton, 2007);

  • Online technologies and personal relationships, intimacy, and friendship (Davies, 2013);

  • Online technologies and adolescents relationships (Mesch & Talmud, 2007; Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 2008); and

  • Psychosocial aspects of online social relationships (Caplan, 2003).

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