Social Media Networks Unveiled. Mapping the Romanian and German Youth

By Balaban, Professor Delia Cristina; Constantinescu, Sorana et al. | Journal of Media Research, September 1, 2018 | Go to article overview

Social Media Networks Unveiled. Mapping the Romanian and German Youth


Balaban, Professor Delia Cristina, Constantinescu, Sorana, Mustăţea, Maria, Journal of Media Research


Context and theoretical framework

Social media has become nowadays a relevant item of the media diet of the majority of the population in many countries. It is a dynamic field where platforms and usage practices are subject to constant changes in an established culture of connectivity (Van Dijck 2013) with multi-directional information flow in a hybrid media system (Chadwick 2013). Carr and Hayes (2015) define social media as a computer-mediated communication, where individuals generate content of their own, see and interact with content of their friends' or other users online. Our interest is in social networking sites (SNSs), a subdomain of social media, that are networked communication platforms in which participants:

1. have uniquely identifiable profiles that consist of user-supplied content, content provided by other users, and/or system-provided data;

2. can publicly articulate connections that can be viewed and traversed by others; and

3. can consume, produce, and/or interact with streams of user-generated content provided by their connections on the site. (Ellison & Boyd 2013, p. 157 in Alhabash, Ma 2017, 1).

The main SNS we are discussing is Facebook, as it is the main network where people can also share news and has a more informative character than the others. Twitter was not taken into consideration, as previous studies showed us that it does not have the same popularity as Facebook. For example, in 2011 there were 44000 Twitter accounts and 2,95 million Facebook accounts (Aparaschivei 2011); moving to 2017, Twitter remains the Cinderella of the SNSs that are used in Romania, with only 8,4% of the of internet users in the country and over 9 mil. Facebook accounts (Gemius 2017) with account on this platform.

In the present study we will focus our attention on Romanian and German youth, as they are the main users of Social Media Networks. In Germany, the main age groups that use Facebook were, in 2014, between 18-24 (24,11%) and between 25-34 (27,76%). On the other hand, in Romania the main age group that uses Face- book is between 25-34 (26,83%), followed by the 18-24 (21,47%) and 35-44 groups (21,15%) (Facebrands 2017).

In recent years, young users are migrating from Facebook to Snapchat and Instagram, as shown by Alhabash and Ma (2017). Nonetheless, Facebook remains the main network used in Romania and Germany. Given the fact that university students have large Facebook networks and spend a lot of time on Facebook (Iordache et al. 2015, Gorghiu et al. 2016), we consider that the focus on students is important as it helps us to reveal a piece of the puzzle that is the use of SNSs in Romania.

In the last few years, social media has gained a lot of attention from researchers. From the discussions on the diffusion of fake news (Zhang et al. 2016), better defined as democratically dysfunctional news sharing (Chadwick et al. 2018) and to the most recent - the Cambridge Analytica scandal (Cadwalladr & GrahamHarrison 2018), the use and the implications of using social networks have never been so intensely discussed. But even with this new information about the downsides to social media, and Facebook in particular, people are still using them at the same rate, with no signs that accounts are being closed as a response to the lack of control over the personal data of the users or the truthfulness of the information they gather this way. A central theory that can explain this type of behavior was developed in the 1970, namely the uses and gratification approach (Kate 1974). This theory is built around the idea that the audience members are active and goal-oriented consumers. Furthermore, as the name suggests, people gratify certain needs through the use of social media. As Alhabash and Ma (2017) put it, users are perceived as rational actors that are aware of their interests and motives, which lead them to select media and entertainment material that provides gratification. …

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