Academic journal article Journal of International Students

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Domestic American and International Chinese Students' Social Media Usage

Academic journal article Journal of International Students

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Domestic American and International Chinese Students' Social Media Usage

Article excerpt


This survey of American and Chinese students at a state university in the southern United States measures Social Media (SM) use and attitudes toward SM. The purpose of this study was to investigate student perception and motivation of social media communication and the relationship between student cultural values and their social media participation. The implications of students' social media participation to an international community were also explored in this study. Foregrounded in the analysis is the role that academic services play in domestic and international students' scholastic experience, and what SM functions students' use to engage with these services. The contribution of this study, beyond being one of the first to look at the difference between international and domestic students' SM patterns, includes a call for the further nuancing of the construct of culture, where culture is dynamic and temporal, instead of just country of origin.

Keywords: social media, international student, Chinese student, international community

In the United States "nearly 4 in 5 active internet users visit social networks and blogs" (Nielsen, 2011, p. 1) and in China there are 195 million social media (SM) users (China News, 2011). The enormous use of SM offers potential opportunities for community construction, such as health (Chou, Hunt, Beckjord, Moser, & Hesse, 2009), museum (Russo, Watkins, Kelly, & Chan, 2006), and academic communities (Dickson & Holley, 2010). More and more academic communities utilize a myriad of SM outlets to connect with students, building community through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

As the number of international students grows each year in America (Institute of International Education, 2012), it becomes more important to understand the SM habits of both American born students and international students. Better understandings of these habits can lead to better resource management from libraries and other campus support programs, allowing for better academic facilitation of these students. David Holmes (2010) posits that interactive new media can facilitate "universal citizenship" (p. 10) by decentralizing the positions of "the apparatuses of cultural production" (p. 11) in two-way communication. This decentralization then positions internet-based communication as a "culturally neutral medium" (p. 75). SM, in this construction, is then perfectly positioned to be a unifying tool for academic communities.

Conversely, Hawisher and Selfe (2000) contend that "the culturally specific nature of literacy practices clearly influences the use of the . . . Internet in fundamental ways" (p. 2). Some cultural and psychological studies, such as Hofstede's cultural dimensions theory (1984; 1990; 2001) and Schwartz's basic human values theory(1990; 2006), support this argument, as these theories highlight the significance of cultural differences and these differences influence on communication. For example, Miller and Salter (2000) found that global internet-based communication has strengthened and enhanced local, indigenous culture, rather than homogenizing cultures.

With these divergent views of how the internet and culture reciprocally influence human behavior in mind, this study asks: Are there differences in SM use among people with different cultural backgrounds who study at the same university? If there are, to what extent do these differences relate to their cultural values? In an internationalized academic community, what are the implications of the different usage of SM for its academic activities? This manuscript explores these questions through a cross-cultural comparison. The target population of this research is Chinese students and American students at a state university in the southern United States.

Literature Review

Social Media and the Academic Community

For this manuscript, social media (SM) is defined as "a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2. …

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