Culture-Laden Social Engagement: A Comparative Study of Social Relationships in Social Networking Sites among American, Chinese and Korean Users

Culture-Laden Social Engagement: A Comparative Study of Social Relationships in Social Networking Sites among American, Chinese and Korean Users

Sejung Marina Choi (University of Texas, USA), Shu-Chuan Chu (DePaul University, USA) and Yoojung Kim (University of Texas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4979-8.ch005
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Abstract

In today's online environment, social networking sites (SNSs) flourish across the globe as an effective venue for social engagement. The objective of this chapter is to conceptually discuss and empirically demonstrate how social interactions within SNSs are still culturally bound and mirror the users' prevailing cultural orientations. After discussing a conceptual framework for illustrating cultural forces in social relationships within SNSs, the authors present findings from an online survey of SNS users from three cultures: the US, China, and South Korea.
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Background

In theory, SNSs enable users to transcend geographical borders and encourage intercultural communication among them. While SNSs are seemingly ideal for communication among individuals from different cultures, computer-mediated communication does not occur in a cultural vacuum. Thus, such interactions might still be influenced by cultural factors (Halavais, 2000; Orgad, 2006). That is, social interaction within SNSs might operate within the spatial, structural, and cultural perimeters of the societal milieu by which the users are surrounded. Such interactions might also reflect the dominant values and norms of the culture to which participants belong (Boyd, 2008). Within this context, an important question to address is

Do cultural forces impact on the nature of social connections in SNSs?

Although the burgeoning body of academic research on SNSs has examined SNSs as a new virtual sphere for identity construction, self-presentation, and social capital generation (e.g., Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Jung, Youn, & McClung, 2007; Livingstone, 2008), the investigation has largely been limited to users from a single nation and little is known about the applicability of its findings to other cultural contexts. Yet a few recent studies suggest cultural influences on social relations and interaction within SNSs (e.g., Kim & Yun, 2007; Lewis & George, 2008). To begin to understand how such factors affect cross-cultural communication in SNSs, this initial section reviews factors of culture and technology that can affect such exchanges.

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