The social media cultural divide

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chinanetworkFacebook often trumpet the sheer number of people that are members of the network.  They’re also quite fond of sharing how they’re the #1 social network in 127 countries around the world.  There are of course some countries for which Facebook don’t rule the roost, and one of those is in China, where Qzone are the dominant network.

A new study by Michigan State University has attempted to explore the different ways in which social networkers in America and China go about their stuff.  The study unearthed some fundamental differences between American and Chinese social networkers.

Whilst American users found their online social networks incredibly important for instance, their Chinese counterparts were less enthralled, being more interested in real-world relationships and doing less of the self-promotion that’s so popular on Facebook and Twitter.

“In the United States, it’s all about promoting yourself and taking credit for positive outcomes and denying blame for negative outcomes,” Jackson says. “In China, it’s the opposite. If something bad happens, you take the blame and talk about how you can improve. If something good happens, the credit is shared for the good of the group.”

The researchers surveyed over 400 social networkers in each country to try and find out how they used the sites.  The study finds that US participants spent nearly twice as long on social networking sites (nearly 52 minutes a day) compared with Chinese participants (about 28 minutes a day). Further, nearly a fifth (19 percent) of Chinese participants said they almost never use social networking sites, compared to just 4 percent in the United States.

What are the causes of this?

The researchers believe that a big factor in these differences is the different parenting styles exhibited by Americans and Chinese.  They believe for instance that Chinese parents place emphasis on effort more than achievements.  Therefore social networking is often seen as distracting children from the kind of things they should be working hard in, like their schoolwork.

It’s also still traditional for Chinese homes to have one computer located in a communal space, unlike American homes where many youngsters have their own computers in their bedrooms.

But Jackson doesn’t see it as an issue with access. “If Chinese students really wanted to go online more, they easily could, whether it’s at home or at school. It’s more of a motivation factor,” she says.

“It becomes a question of what’s important in life. In China, it’s more important to sit down for a family dinner or concentrate on your homework or help your parents clean the house.”

So, it seems that for many Chinese families, they simply have better things to do than hang out on Facebook.  With research revealing that many of us in the west are turning away from Facebook, that may increasingly be the case here as well.

2 thoughts on “The social media cultural divide

  1. Obviously there are benefits in both styles, and pitfalls as well. There isn't one "right" way, but it is an important part of the overall culture. Thanks for the information and the thoughts.

  2. This is really good stuff and you have included some useful things about China. I bookmark your page and wait for your next post.

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