Trust in Social Networking: Definitions from a Global, Cultural Viewpoint

Trust in Social Networking: Definitions from a Global, Cultural Viewpoint

Max Kennedy (University of Kentucky, USA) and Toru Sakaguchi (Northern Kentucky University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-104-9.ch012
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Abstract

This chapter attempts to understand the trust in social network services, where users post their personal information online to everyone with or without any specific relationships. Many definitions of trust were examined through a literature review in electronic commerce and virtual community areas, and it was found that most of them were based on a specific relationship, such as a buyer-seller relationship. However, one concept of trust—generalized trust, also known as dispositional trust—was found to best fit the situation of social networking. Generalized trust in social networking is further discussed from a cultural viewpoint. As an example, a Japanese SNS, Mixi, was analyzed in detail. Future research direction on trust in social networking is discussed as well.
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Introduction

Trust has been conceptualized by previous research in a variety of ways ... and researchers have long acknowledged the confusion in the field. (Gefen, Karahanna, & Straub, 2003, p. 55)

There have been many studies done on the issues surrounding trust online. In a global environment, much of the recent research concerning trust has dealt with e-commerce and collaboration efforts occurring over the Internet (e.g., Ba & Pavlou, 2002; Dellarocas, 2003; Gefen et al., 2003; Backhouse, Hsu, Tseng, & Baptista, 2005; Salam, Iyer, Palvia, & Singh, 2005; Chow & O, 2006). These studies tend to define trust in the context of reliability and the predictability of the business or person to perform as expected (Gefen et al., 2003). In these definitions, the object of trust is an interpersonal relationship with either a specific person or a specific business.

Social networking refers to a category of online applications, also known as social network services (SNSs), that help connect friends, business partners, or other individuals together (Alabaster, 2006). With the relatively recent rise in popularity of social network services, such as MySpace, which currently has over 100 million accounts, users of social networking are giving out personal information to the public at large with little, if any, expectation of the future performance or predictability of another person or business. Although users seem to trust something, the definitions of trust mentioned above do not seem to be applicable to SNSs.

This study will examine trust literature for the different types of trust mentioned and see whether the current studies are applicable for studying trust in social networking. Additionally, since what seems to be being trusted by someone who posts their own personal information online to a SNS is the public at large, this study will examine if there are some differences between cultures on how much and what type of information a person is willing to share in this type of situation.

This study is important because there is not enough research involving trust in social networking or research that takes into account cultural differences in social networking. With the rapid rise of SNSs, trust is of interest to: 1) users of such applications because they may want to know more about the issues of information disclosure to the public; 2) marketers who are preparing to mine SNSs for data, because they may want to know about cultural differences in the type and quality of the data they mine; 3) academic researchers examining SNSs, because they may need a new perspective of trust.

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