Culturally Unique Social Patterns in Computer-Mediated Social Networking

Culturally Unique Social Patterns in Computer-Mediated Social Networking

Devan Rosen (University of Hawaii, USA), Michael A. Stefanone (University at Buffalo, USA) and Derek Lackaff (University of Texas at Austin, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-827-2.ch019
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People from distinct cultural backgrounds communicate and manage their interpersonal relations in systematically different ways. The current chapter utilizes a survey of young adults to examine the social patterns of culturally influenced differences in online behavior. Results show that individuals that identify with individualistic cultural backgrounds have larger networks of friends on social network sites (SNSs), have a larger proportion of these friends that they have not actually met face-to-face, and share more photos online, opposed to individuals that identify with less individualistic cultural backgrounds. The size of an individuals’ offline social support network size was a significant predictor of satisfaction with life, while SNS network size was not. Findings suggest that individuals who identify with more individualistic cultural backgrounds tend to be better connected, self-promote, and are more satisfied with their social lives.
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As our communicative environment continues to be influenced by the introduction of new computer-mediated communication (CMC) applications, the effects of these applications are impacting the social world in complex ways. Communication technologies, such as social-networking sites (SNS), are being used in a number of ways to navigate and mediate the environment of personal identities and relationships. Since these applications are being used with increased frequency, using technologies like SNS has become an important skill when managing relationships online (Stefanone & Lackaff, 2009, Stefanone, Lackaff, & Rosen, 2008). As a result of the frequency and importance of CMC applications in our relationships, the instrumental decisions one makes when deciding how to behave in these mediated environments becomes an important element in managing our social world.

A unique aspect of these new computer-mediated technologies is that spatial and geographic boundaries are no longer barriers to interaction, allowing people from a diverse set of cultures to interact with each other with increased ease and frequency. Given that many of the new CMC applications require people to establish an online identity with personal profiles, earlier findings indicating that impressions formed in CMC environments can be more intense that offline (see Hancock & Dunham, 2004), it is important to understanding how individuals who identify with different cultures use the CMC platforms to present their identities. This chapter presents an investigation into the relationship between computer-mediated communicative behaviors and culture to explore whether culturally influenced behaviors normally associated with face-to-face communication emerge as patterned behavior in CMC.

In this chapter, literature on culture-specific communicative styles and behaviors frames an investigation into the use of specific Web 2.0 technologies: SNSs. Literature on broad cultural differences in behavior is reviewed, followed by a review of research on CMC technologies with emphasis on SNSs. The literature review concludes with hypotheses and research questions about the different uses of SNSs as related to culture. Methodological procedures will be discussed, followed by results, discussion of limitations and implications for future research.

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