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1 BEHAVIORS AND MOTIVATIONS OF SO CIAL NETWORKING SITES USERS: A CROSS-GENDER AND CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON By DAN LI A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN MASS COMMUNICATION UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2008
2 2008 Dan Li
3 To my Mom and Dad
4 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank the chair and m embers of my superv isory committee for their mentoring. I thank my parents for their love and support.
5 TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4LIST OF TABLES................................................................................................................. ..........7ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................8 CHAP TER 1 INTRODUCTION....................................................................................................................92 LITERATURE REVIEW.......................................................................................................12Definition of Social Networking Sites....................................................................................12Uses and Gratifications Perspective....................................................................................... 14Online Behaviors and Motivations......................................................................................... 18Behaviors and Motives for Using Social Networking Sites................................................... 21A Network of Friends......................................................................................................21A Place about Me............................................................................................................ 22Gender Differences of Internet Behaviors and Motivations................................................... 23Behaviors and Motivations of Social Netw orking Sites in Cross-Cultural Context.............. 263 METHODS.............................................................................................................................30Participants and Procedures.................................................................................................... 30Demographics.........................................................................................................................32Measurement.................................................................................................................... .......33Social Networking Sites Behaviors and Motivations...................................................... 33Cultural Measures: Individua lism and Collectivism.......................................................34Data Analysis..........................................................................................................................354 FINDINGS....................................................................................................................... .......39Factor Results.........................................................................................................................39Frequencies and Corre lation of Factors..................................................................................43Demographic Differences of Uses and Motivations...............................................................44Gender.............................................................................................................................44Cultural Background.......................................................................................................445 DISCUSSION.........................................................................................................................51Social Networking Sites Uses and Motivations in General.................................................. 51Comparison of Male and Female Students in this Study........................................................ 55
6 Comparison of U.S. and Chines e Students in this Study ........................................................ 57Individualism vs. Collectivism........................................................................................57Motivations of U.S. and Chin ese Students in this Study................................................. 60Limitations.................................................................................................................... ..........62Implications................................................................................................................... .........63New Motivation in Online Activities..............................................................................63Diminishing Gender Differences.....................................................................................64Extensions in Cultural Differences.................................................................................. 65APPENDIX QUESTIONNAIRE.................................................................................................. 67LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................................71BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................76
7 LIST OF TABLES Table page 3-1 Demographics of respondents............................................................................................363-2 Indicators of motivations.................................................................................................. .373-3 Indicators of cultural dimensions....................................................................................... 384-1 Factor analysis load ing for each motivation...................................................................... 464-2 Factor loading for colle ctivism and individualism............................................................474-3 Mean score and standard deviation for each motivation................................................... 484-4 Correlations between motivations...................................................................................... 494-5 Comparison of motivations fo r female and male students.................................................494-6 Individualism and collectivism compar ison between female and male students..............494-7 Comparison of motivations fo r U.S. and Chinese students............................................... 504-8 Individualism vs. collectivism comp arison for U.S. and Chinese students....................... 50
8 Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Mast er of Arts in Mass Communication BEHAVIORS AND MOTIVATIONS OF SO CIAL NETWORKING SITES USERS: A CROSS-GENDER AND CROSS-CULTURAL COMPARISON By Dan Li December 2008 Chair: Cory L. Armstrong Major: Mass Communication This cross-cultural study used surveys to find out how people use soci al networking sites, their underlying motivations for using these site s and whether these behaviors and motivations can be affected by gender and cultural backgr ound. A uses and gratifications perspective revealed six motivations for soci al networking sites users: relati onship maintenance, interactivity, information sharing, personal expression, diversio n and trendiness. Among these reasons, college students in this study were most likely to use soci al networking sites to maintain relationships with friends and relatives. We al so found that gender differences of online activities are rapidly diminishing in social networking sites usage, but cultural differences are still significant between U.S. and Chinese students when they use these websites.
9 CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION After social networking sites (SNS) were brough t into the In ternet world, millions of users began to participate in this new form of online activity. Soci al networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Cyworld, are websites where users can create their own personal profiles and build networks with other users that they know (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). This kind of website provides users with different kinds of functions including wr iting blogs, uploading pictures, customizing profiles, messaging friends, etc. According to ComScore, 68 million users logged onto MySpace and 26 million logged onto Facebook in June 2007 (Atal, 2007). It is not surprising that these social networking sites are especially popular among young people (Cuesta, 2006). Logging onto the social networking sites for many of them has become a part of their daily life. Besides the well-known social networking si tes like Facebook and MySpace, there are hundreds of other SNSs with different features, such as MSNspace, Hi5, Cyworld, etc. Most of these sites allow the users to establish a list of contacts with peopl e they already know in the real world. There are also sites that connect strangers who share the same interests, religious views, political views or other things like that (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). The use of social networking sites enable s a new form of interactive communication among people. Scholars from different discipline s have examined social networking sites to understand this new phenomenon and communication activity. For example, Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2007) have focused on how people accumulate their social resources through interacting with people in thei r social networking sites; Hargitttai (2007) has examined the demographic differences of users and non-users of SNS. However, very few studies focused on the specific behaviors and motiv ations of the SNS users. For example, Clark, Lee & Boyer
10 (2007) examined the college students use of Facebook in general, including motivations and self-disclosure, but the study was restricted to Facebook instead of general SNS. Therefore, part of this study will describe what do people do with SNS (behaviors) and why people use SNS (motivations). Since social networking sites are new forms of communication tools that emerged on the Internet, it seems natural to pay some attention to gender-related issues because the Internet had been regarded as a technological boy toy ever since its birth (Weiser, 2000, p.168), and a gender gap of usage was found in early times of the Internet (Hiros hi & Zavadny, 2003). Later studies have also found differences in terms of how men and women use the Internet (Boneva et al., 2001; Jackson et al., 2001; Trammell, 2005; Pe dersen & Macafee, 2007; Li, 2005). Since no previous studies have examined gender-related issues in SNS, this study will compare males and females in terms of SNS usage and motivations. Attracting both male and female users, so cial networking sites are also getting popular with people from different cout ries: Orkut became the most popul ar SNS in Brazil; Mixi was widely used in Japan; Bebo was popular in the United Kingdom; Q Zone was used by Chinese people and Cyworld was adopted by Korean users (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Obviously social networking sites are spreading not only in U.S.; people in other cultures are attracted to these sites as well, however, these uses in other culture s didnt receive much coverage in U.S. media. Therefore, this study will compare the behavi ors and motivations of SNS users from two cultures: U.S. and China. These two cultures are c hosen because they tend to have very different cultural value systems (H ofstede, 1980) and it will be inte resting to see whether cultural background as another demographic variable will affect how and why people use social networking sites.
11 Using a Web-based survey, this study looks at how young people use social networking sites and the underlying motivations for these behaviors. Young people aged from 18 to 29 represent 78% of the online population (Pew Internet, 2005), and these young people are a wired generation who participat e in different online activities including social networking sites (Ray, 2007, p.1). A uses and gratific ations approach will be applied to this study because this approach is considered effectiv e in studying media audiences and us ers. This study will also look at whether gender and cultural background as two de mographic variables affect peoples uses of SNS. By looking at how young people use these sites, this exploratory study will help communication scholars understand how young people satis fy their different needs by using SNS, and also enable SNS professional and companie s to improve these sites to better meet young peoples needs.
12 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW Definition of Social Networking Sites Social networking sites (SNS), also known as social networ king services, are web sites where users establish their public profiles and keep a visible list of their friends; they are places where people gather together to communicate, share and exchange idea s (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Social networking sites began to becom e popular in March 2005 when Yahoo launched Yahoo!360, and in July 2005 News Corporation purchased MySpace (Scott-Joynt, 2005). Later lots of different social networ king sites appeared in different countries. For example, Facebook also started in 2005 and was originally restricted to college students (Clark, Lee & Boyer, 2007). After social networking sites emergence, studies have been conducted to examine this new phenomenon. Gross and Acquisti (2005) examined privacy in Facebook, and found that lots of people dont use the privacy control in Facebook and therefore let thei r personal information disclosed online. Ellison et al. (2007) found that people mainly use Facebook to connect with pre-existing relationships and that those who have low satisfacti on to their personal life can be satisfied psychologically by using Facebook. Ha rgittai (2007) examined the demographic differences of SNS users and non-users. Social networking sites allow individuals to pr esent themselves to the public or to their family and friends, make a list of their social networks and manage relationships with others (Ellison et al., 2007). Most sites provide the users with the ba sic function to establish and maintain their social networks, and there are al so other applications th at allow users to send messages, establish their profile and write bl ogs, etc (Rapacki, 2007). Individuals can identify and present themselves by multimedia in their profiles where they can type anything about themselves that they want to let others know (Boyd & Ellison, 2007); they can keep journals or
13 post messages in their built-in blogs where people could leave comments, and also manage their networks of friends whom they already know in the real life or meet new people online (Rapacki, 2007). Although there are a variety of soci al networking sites, the basi c structure of these sites is similar and described here: Profile: Every person in a social ne tworking site has a profile. A typical profile includes a picture of the user, basic information, and pers onal information about the user. Usually a SNS users basic information includes name, gender, birthday and education. Personal information includes interests, favorite movies favorite sports, and other pers onal information that the user wants others to know. Personal information is opti onal. A user can leave this section blank or write thousands of words if he/s he likes. For the SNS user, a pr ofile is the place where they can present their identity online (Boyd & Heer, 2006). Built-in Blog: Blogs are defined as Web-based journals in which all the posts are displayed in reverse chronologica l order (Li, 2005). A built-in blog in a social networking site functions the same as a typical blog, and it is ope n to the users friends in SNS. SNS users are able to express their ideas and write a bout their personal life in a built-in blog. Message Board: A message board functions like a traditional blackboard in a classroom, and it is open to the users fr iends in the social networking site. People can leave messages on others message boards, they can say hello to old friends, discuss things or even make plans with each other on the board. People can also post pictur es, videos and links of Websites on the board. Inbox: An inbox in a social networking site is an email box built within the site. Different from a message board that can be seen by everyo ne, an inbox keeps the users privacy. Messages and mails sent to a users inbox can only be seen by himself/herself.
14 News feed: A news feed in a social networking site is a place where everyones activities and sharing of things were displa yed. The news here refers to new activities about friends. For example, if a user posted a video or changed his/ her profile picture, all his/her friends in the same social networking site will be notified through a de tailed note in the news feed section. In news feed, a person can keep track of his/her friends all kinds of updates. These are some basic structures and their func tions in social networking sites. These sites are different from other Web sites in that they provide people with multiple functions such as writing blogs, checking messages and sharing photos. Things that pe ople used to do via different Web sites can be done from one single site. The popularity of social networking sites enables a new kind of online interactive communication, and research needs to be conducte d to explore the specific needs that are satisfied by using this new comm unication tool. Thus, this study tries to look at how and why young people use social networking sites. A uses and gratifications perspective is applied as the theoretical framework to this study. Uses and Gratifications Perspective For a long tim e, one focus of mass communi cation researchers has been studying how media affects the audiences. These studies looked at the content of the media and its short-term effects on the audiences (Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch, 1974; R ubin, 1994), for example, these studies may examine how violent television c ontent causes violence in life, without taking differences of the individuals into account. Wh ile these effects studie s preoccupied the media study field, some researchers began to pay attent ion to the audience by lo oking at how they get gratifications from the content of media (Palmgreen, Wenner, & Rosengren, 1985). Early studies (Herzog, 1942; Suchman, 1942) came up with some functions that are served by some specific media or specific programs. For example, Herzog (1942) found out that radio soap operas were
15 used to satisfy the listeners with advice and supp ort, and he attached th ese different dimensions of media usage satisfactions with the term gra tifications. However, these early studies were mostly descriptive and the media functions discov ered were taken out fr om respondents answers to the open-ended questions. They were qualita tive studies that are limited by the small number of respondents. It was also pointed out that thes e early studies failed to connect gratifications derived from the media with those original ne eds that are satisfied correspondently (Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch, 1974). Later studies about uses and gratifications began to develop typologies of the audience gratifications (McQuail, Blum ler & Brown, 1972; Katz, Haas & Gurevitch, 1973). McQuail et al. (1972) developed a model that classifies the majo r media gratifications into four categories: diversion (including escape from routine life a nd work as well as emotional release); personal relationships (including use of media for companionship as a substitute and use of information in social conversation); personal identity (incl uding self-understanding and reality exploration); surveillance (looking for information about decision making or current events). Katz, Haas and Gurevitch (1973) also made an effort to categorize the different media gratifications. They considered the media as a means used by the audience to connect or disconnect with others. They classi fied the gratifications into five categories: (1) cognitive needs, which refer to the needs related to getting info rmation and knowledge; (2) affective needs, which refer to needs related to getti ng pleasurable and emotional expe riences; (3) personal integrative needs, which refer to needs related to strengthening c onfidence and status; (4 ) social integrative needs, which refer to needs related to interact ing with family and friends; (5) tension release needs, which refer to needs related to escap e and the decrease of ones social roles.
16 When thinking about uses and gratifications began to mature, Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch (1974) brought out the influential de scription of this approach. They suggested that this approach looks at the audiences expectati on and use of media that is genera ted from their different social and psychological origins of needs. Social origins of needs can be explained as variables such as age, gender, family, education, experience and communication with others, etc., while psychological factors include thi ngs such as personality and at titude (Palmgreen, Wenner, & Rosengren, 1985). Social or psycho logical factors cause specific needs, and the needs generate certain expectations to satisfy the needs by usin g mass media, and further lead to media exposure (Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch, 1974). For example, a socially embarrassing situation makes an individual feel tensions and pre ssure, and this tension generates th e need for relief, therefore the individual expects and further uses mass media to satisfy the needs (Katz & Foulkes, 1962). The uses and gratifications perspectiv e tries to explain the way indivi duals use media to satisfy their needs by simply asking them (Katz, Blumler & Gurevitch, 1974). Some basic assumptions of the uses and gratif ications approach have been made by Katz, Blumler and Gurevitch (1974) for apprehending th e relationship between media and audiences: (1) Individuals actively choose media. They have th eir own goals that direct them when they use the media and are able to purposively select medi a to meet their needs; (2) audiences have the drive and power to take actions, and they take th e initiative to link gratifications with media usage; (3) mass communication onl y represent one source for grat ifications among many sources, and the needs satisfied by mass communication are only part of the various human needs. The degrees to which these needs can be satisfied are also different according to different mass media; (4) audiences are aware of their own motives and are able to report them or at least recognize them while been asked.
17 Different mediums have their own attributes that affect content, ways of presentation and the context for people to use them (for exampl e, at home vs. out of home); therefore, one medium is capable of satisfying several kinds of needs (Katz, Gurevitch and Haas, 1973). Early research applied this approach of uses and gratification theo ry to the uses of traditional media. Elliot & Rosenberg (1987) found th at people use newspapers for: surveillance-the way people use media for getting informa tion about decision-making or current events; social contact--talking about medias portray and presentati ons of others; to kill time; entertainment--pleasure and enj oyment result from the experien ce of media consumption. Rubin (1985) found that college students watch soap operas for four prim ary motives: reality explorationto learn about others ideas, prob lems and lifestyle; escapeescape from problems and work; diversionto enjoy or to get entertai ned; social interaction-to meet or spend time with others. Weaver (2003) found general television watching satisfies people for five motivations: passing time, companionship, ge tting relaxed, information and arousalget excitement and feel thrilled. Talk radio is used for reasons such as entertainment, convenience, escape, information, passing time and compan ionship (Armstrong & Rubin, 1989). Mobile phones are used to look stylish and trendy, to show affection to others, to feel relaxed, for immediate access and for the sense of security (Leung & Wei, 2000). Uses and gratifications theory has also b een applied to the new media. The Internet, compared to the traditional media, requires the audience to be more ac tive because individuals have to click and search to have access to certa in content. Studies have found out that Internet users main purposes for using the World Wide Web are similar to what they seek from the traditional media: entertainment, passing time and social interaction, and therefore indicated that the use of the Internet is also goal directed as uses and grat ifications perspective predicted
18 (Tewksbury & Althaus, 2000; Ferguson & Perse, 2000). Besides browsing the World Wide Web, other online activities had also been examined from this pers pective. Electronic bulletin boards (a Web-based bulletin board where people are ab le to post messages that can be viewed by others) are used for information and education pu rposes and for socializing (James et al., 1995). Interpersonal applications such as Instant Messe nger (a kind of real-time text communication between people who are online) were found to serve needs such as facilitating friendships, passing time and getting entertainment (Flanagin, 2005). Moreover, the Internet as a whole is found to satisfy needs including social interactio n, looking for information, passing time, entertainment and convenience (Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000). Therefore, previous research s uggests that the uses and gratifi cations theory can be used as an approach to effectively explain why people are choosing what kind of media, and the needs and motives that they seek for. In this study, uses and gratifications theory is employed to examine what kind of needs people are seeking to fill when they use social networking sites. Online Behaviors and Motivations Previous studies focused on the uses and m otiv ations of general Internet users (Song et al., 2004; Papacharissi & Rubi n, 2000). Specific behaviors are measured together with motivations to see particularly what people are doing with the Internet. Papacharissi & Rubin (2000) examined different online behaviors in cluding meeting new people, participating in online groups, looking for information, expressi ng oneself, communicating with family and friends by e-mail and entertaining oneself. They id entified five motives for using the Internet: (1) interpersonal utility, which refers to communicate and interact with others; (2) passing time; (3) looking for information; (4) conveni ence; and (5) entertainment. Song et al. (2004) measured the online beha viors of college stude nts in communications classes at two Midwestern univers ities for seven gratification fact ors: (1) interacting with people
19 online and joining different online groups (virtu al community); (2) getting information about news events, health, products, etc. (informati on seeking); (3) looking for cool new Web sites, new interactive features and attr active graphics (aesthetic expe rience); (4) looking for bargains on products and finding ways to make money online (monetary compensation); (5) feeling relaxed and entertained (diversion); (6) getti ng updated with new technology and looking for information that reflects ones culture (personal st atus); and (7) getting in touch with people they already know offline (relat ionship maintenance). Lots of studies about uses and gratifications of the Internet have focused on the uses of online chatting and messaging (Flanagin, 2005; Hwang, 2005; Schneider & Hemmer, 2005; Leung, 2001). Flanagin (2005) examined college students motivations of using Instant Messenger (IM) and found out that the motivations for using IM included facilitating friendships, obtaining personal communication, for ease of use, fo r entertainment, for convenience, for social attention and to meet new people. Hwangs (2005) study about the gratifications of IM users found out that they felt a sense of being together or emotiona lly connected to each other when they chat on IM, but the IM doesnt fulfill any needs related to their looking for information. Schneider and Hemmer (2005) did a study on German teenagers motivations for use instant messaging communications including AIM, MSN, and ICQ, and found out that an important motivation for IM users was to maintain relationships that they already established in real life. Using IM doesnt change their relati onships but increases the frequency of contacting each other. Leung (2001) in his study of ICQ (a type of ch atting software) usage by college students in Hong Kong looked at the chatting pa tterns and motivations of college students. He found out that
20 the majority used ICQ more than three or four tim es a week, and most of them chatted with their classmates and ordinary friends. Th ey were using this software to show affection to people, to get entertainment, to get relaxed, to look trendy, to belong to a group, to meet new people, and to escape from what they were doing. Besides instant messaging, virtual community wa s also adopted by user s for online social interaction. A virtual comm unity is described as a group of people with shared interest or goals for whom electronic communication is a primary form of interaction (Dennis, Pootheri & Natarajan, 1998, p.66), although not a ll the sites of online discour se can be called virtual community since some of them such as chat ro oms just exist for people who meet without some specific interest (Ridings & Gefen, 2004). Ridings & Gefen (2004) studied the motivations for people who use virtual commun ities and found out the information exchange was a primary reason for virtual community users, and social support and friendship are popular reasons as well. Wright (2002) studied motivations of on line support groups (for discussion of health issues), and found out that the weekly users of online suppo rt groups use it mostly for convenience while daily users used it for pa ssing time and interpersonal motives. Farquhar & Meeds (2007) examined the motives for particip ating in online fantasy sports community and found out five types of motives: arousal, surv eillance, entertainment, escape and social interaction; however, the social interaction was found to be the least important, which implied that sometimes not all online communities build or maintain relationships. New online activities, such as blogs, may co mbine the needs of relationship maintenance with information seeking and broadcasting. In her study of bl ogging behaviors and motivations, Li (2005) examined six aspects of blogging: how bloggers cover topics in writing, how bloggers manage feedback from readers, how bloggers use hyperlinks, how bloggers present themselves,
21 how bloggers expect their reader ship, how bloggers use design elements, and further found out that bloggers use blogs to express themselves, to record and document their life, to look for information, to improve writing a nd to socialize with others. Entertainment has always been an important motivation for people to use the Internet. Interestingly, software designed for entertainmen t may enable the users to socialize with other users as well. Chang et al. (2006) examined Ko rean young peoples behavior and motivations of playing online games, which invo lve interacting with other onlin e players, and they found that online game players were using online games to satisfy their needs for companionship and substitute for friends. Overall, the following motives can be summ arized about online activities (Song et al., 2004; Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Chang et al., 2006; Flanagin, 2005; Hwang, 2005; Schneider & Hemmer, 2005; Leung, 2001; Li, 2005) as below: Information need (looking for information), Interpersonal need (maintaining relati onship and interacting with others), Personal need (expressing ideas and self-presenting), Escape need (escape and entertainment). This study is designed to invest igate uses of social networking sites and the motivations of SNS activities based on the previous research results, as addressed below. Behaviors and Motives for Using Social Networking Sites A Network of Friends As a com prehensive combination of information, relationships, entertaining elements and many other new web activities, SNS attract mo re and more young users. Previous studies indicated the function of SNS for providing soci al relationship needs. Clark, Lee and Boyers study (2007) found out that the primary motive for college students to use Facebook was to stay
22 in touch with friends and family. Respondents reported that the news feed section of this site allows them to track their friends far away and therefore help them main tain distance friendships. Ellison, Steinfield and Lampe (2007) examined the use of Facebook and the formation and maintenance of social resources. The study found th at Facebook is used to support relationships and keep people in contact rather than meet new people online. Most people used Facebook to get in touch with their old frie nds and to maintain their relati onships with other people they already know in the real world, for instance, pe ople they go to the same sports club with. Respondents said that when they moved from one pl ace to another, or when they graduate from a school, they could still keep in touch by using Facebook (Ellison et al., 2007). Besides Facebook, other social ne tworking sites are also found to be used more often as a tool to maintain pre-existing relationships. A ccording to the Pew Internet & American Life Project Teens and Parents Survey (Lenhart & Madden, 2007), 91% of the teens said that they used the SNS to keep in touch with friends they see frequently, and 82% said they used SNS to keep in touch with friends that they dont see th at much. Seventy-two percent of them used SNS to make plans with friends. However, this surv ey only examined activities related to relationship maintenance, without mentioning other behaviors, such as express personal ideas. These studies (Clark, Lee & Boyer, 2007; Ellison, Steinf eild & Lampe, 2007; Lenhart & Madden, 2007) indicated the important use of social networking sites for relations hip maintaining, which will be studied in the present research as well. A Place about Me Besides the establishment of the network of friends, anot her important function for SNS is providing a platform for users to create thei r own profile. Profiles are places where the users can write anything about themselves (Boyd, 2006). Wh at they write about themselves and what they tell others about their inte rests and characteristics help to produce an identity (Boyd, 2006).
23 The profile provides them a place to tell others who they are. By displaying their profile to their friends, they can both establish th eir own identity and attract or get attention from others who might share the same interest, educational bac kground, religious views or things like that (Boyd & Heer, 2006). Therefore, profiles not only satisfy users needs for identity and self-presentation, but also provide a platform to a ttract attention and make friends. Most SNS, such as MySpace, have their own built-in blogs where the users keep a personal journal about thei r life, their feelings and their t houghts. These built-in blogs usually provide lots of interactive features that let th e users write about themselves and upload pictures and videos about their life (Rapacki, 2007). Si nce these blogs are bui lt in the individuals personal social networking site, th ey are visible to people who are in the individuals list of friends, thus, the built-in blogs enable the users to present themselves to their friends or to the public. In Clark et al.s study (2007), Facebook was also found to satisfy the five categories of needs presented by Papacharissi and Rubin (2000). However, the study merely focused on Facebook, and there are no studies that focus on general social networ king sites. Because of this gap in the previous literature about behaviors and motivations of using SNS, this study is designed to explore this question. RQ 1: What are the main behaviors and motivations of young adults who use social networking sites? Gender Differences of Internet Behaviors and Motivation s Studies that focused on the uses and gratifi cations of traditional media have found that males and females use media differently. Canton and Nathanson (1997) found that boys are more interested in watching violent television programs and are more likely to watch violent shows regularly than girls. Brown a nd Pardun (2002) found that in term s of general television viewing,
24 female adolescents tended to watch shows with girls as stars and male adolescents are more likely to watch sports and adult animated shows. Lucas and She rry (2007) found that females are less likely to play video games than males, a nd males are more likely to play video games because they like to compete with others. Gender differences in the uses of new media have also been well documented (Jackson et al., 2001; Weiser, 2000; Trammell, 2005, Li, 2005). Jackson et al (2001) found out that women were more likely to use the Internet to communicate with their friends and family member while men were more likely to use the Internet for Web browsing. Weiser (2000) found out that women were more likely than men to write e-mail to friends and to use Internet to interact with new people, which means that women were found out to be more likely to use the Internet for their needs of communicating with others. Gender differences of online behavior also app eared in blog usage. Blogs are considered to have some social networking attributes in that the readers can interact with bloggers by leaving comments. Trammell (2005) found in that women were more likely to use bl ogs to express their feelings and emotions and were also more likel y to blog to record their day and expand their memory. However, male bloggers were more likel y to discuss their hobbies and interests. Li (2005) found out that men were more likely to blog about an external topic not related to themselves while women blogged about personal things in their life. Previous studies also found gender differences in terms of motivations of Internet uses, and proved that in terms of Internet usage motivatio ns, women were more likely to use Internet to satisfy their social and communicat ional needs. In their early study about email usage, Boneva et al. (2001) found out that men a nd women use email for different reasons. Women were found to be more likely to use email to sustain their relationships and to contact people who are far away
25 from them. The authors suggested that women are using this new technology to expand their distance social networks and to intensify certain family and kin relationships (Boneva et al., 2001, p. 546) while both men and women use email to keep in touch with local friends and siblings. Weiser (2000) found out that women are more likely to use Internet for interpersonal and social needs. Blogging serves different motivations for male and female bloggers as well, according to prior research. Trammell et al (2006) found out that female bloggers in Poland were motivated out of need for social interac tion, and a little more motivated out of self-expression, such as feelings and thoughts. Pedersen & Macafee (2007) found out that female bloggers were more likely to use blogs for social interaction reasons and they valued readers feedback and also tended to belong to large numbers of blog rings that linked their bl ogs together. Li (2005) also found out that men were mostly motivated by the need of getting information while using blogs, while women were more likely to use blogs for self-documentation, se lf-expression and passing time. Therefore, the motivations for blogging also indicate that men and women blog with different goals in mind. Some studies of certain virtual communities also indicated different motivations of participation for males and females. Hobler ( 2007) examined the motivations for a womens gaming clan to use the intera ctive networking gaming, and found out that these women ranked competition and community as the major motiva tions. Ginossar (2005) compared the male and female participation of a cancer-related virtual community and found out that women were more likely to exchange emotional support than men, and men were more likely to provide information as replies.
26 Empirical studies have provided evidence that gender differences in behaviors and motivations were found in terms of Internet ge neral use, email use, blog writing and virtual community (Jackson et al., 2001; Weiser, 2000; Li, 2005; Boneva et al., 2001, Ginossar, 2007). Since social networking sites are a new kind of online communication, research needs to be conducted to examine whether males and female s behave differently in terms of social networking sites usage, in order to extend the existed gender and media studies to more new media activities. RQ 2: How do the behaviors and motivations of young adults compare between male and female in terms of using social networking sites? Behaviors and Motivations of Social Netw orking Sites in C ross-Cultural Context While social networking sites like Face book and MySpace are getting more and more attention in America, other so cial networking sites are deve loping and prevalent in other countries. Q Zone in China developed from popu lar instant messaging software QQ, and after Q Zone added the functions of profiles and a visi ble friends list, it beca me even more popular (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Cyworld in Korea is popul ar among young people; Mixi is widely used in Japan; Hi5 is growing up in Europe (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Although some SNS like Q Zone and Cyworld are also popular, they are not studied as much in English speaking countries, and no studies closely examine how American SNS user s compare to users from other counties. In a cross-cultural comparis on of Internet use, Li and Kirkup (2005) found that British students were more likely to use the Internet for study purpose while Chinese students were more confident about their Internet sk ills. However, the study indicate d that these differences were caused by different educational systems under diff erent cultures rather than the cultural background itself.
27 The cultural perspective by Hofstede (1980) has been used frequently for testing cultural differences across many disciplines. Hofstede ( 1980) developed five cultural dimensions to measure cultural differences: (1) power distance, which refers to the extent to which a society accepts how the power is distributed; (2) individu alism vs. collectivism, which means that in individualist culture people care more about individual accomplishment while in collectivist culture people care more about group consensus; (3) uncertainty avoidance, which refers to the extent to which people might be threatened by un certainty; (4) masculinity vs. femininity, which means that in masculine society success is major value and in feminine society caring for others is major value and (5) long-term vs. short-term or ientation, which represents whether this society is future-oriented or just em phasizes short-term perspective. Among these five dimensions, individualism and collectivism has been used as a major dimension in studies about cultural difference (Cho et al., 1999). Hofstede (1980) explained individualism as a situation in which people are supposed to look after themselves or their immediate family, while collec tivism is a situation in which people belong to in-groups or collectivities which are supposed to look after them in exchange for loyalty (Hofstede, 1980, p. 23). According to Hofstede, Western culture was more individualistic and Eastern culture was more co llectivist. Individualistic culture values an individuals achievement, while collectivist culture emphasizes group harmony (De Mooij, 2005). Moreover, individualistic culture is more li kely to value individual differences when they spread persuasive messages such as advertisement, while collectivism cultures are more likely to value shared feelings (De Mooij, 2005). For exam ple, compared to Korean commercials, U.S. commercials contained more individualist el ements such as emphasis on uniqueness or
28 originality, reflections of self-reliance and emphasis on self-fulfillment and self-realization (Cho et al., 1999). Halls (1976) perspect ive of high-context a nd low-context communication has also been used as theoretical framework in some cross-cu ltural studies (Kim & Papacharissi, 2003; Han, 2003). Hall explained the two this way: A high-context communication or message is one in which most of the information is either in the physical context or internalized in the person, while very l ittle is in the coded, explicit, or transmitted part of the message. A low-context communication is just the opposite; i.e., the mass of the informati on is vested in th e explicit code (Hall, 1976, p. 91) Using this definition, a high-context comm unication or message is the kind of communication in which most of the meaning is embedded in the context or not spoken out by the speaker, and very little of the information is clearly expressed in th e message itself. Poetry can be a good example of high-context communi cation. In contrast, low-context communication is the kind of communication in which most of the information is clearly e xpressed as part of the message. An example of a low-context message would be a news story. Hofstede (1980) suggested a correlation between hi gh-context culture and collectiv ism and a correlation between low-context culture and individualism. Kim and Papacharissi (2003) examined the cu ltural differences in terms of online selfpresentation by comparing Korean and American personal homepages. Korea is Asian country and represents collectivist culture; America is a Western country and represents individualist culture (Hofstede, 1980). Kim and Papacharissi ( 2003) found that people in individualist cultures tend to present themselves in a direct and personal manner (Kim & Papacharissi, 2003, p. 112), while people in collectivis m cultures present themselves by providing links to special interests. In terms of Web writi ng, a person in a collectivist culture tends to use more links to express himself/herself indirectl y. Moreover, people in a collectiv ist culture are more likely to
29 use graphics (which are more implicit) to express themselves and are more likely to use manipulated graphics. Han (2003) found out t hose personal Web pages made and written by American people contained more low-context messages than personal Web pages made and written by Korean people. His findings showed that in terms of the contextuality, Korean personal Web pages had more metaphors, indirect expressions, and incomplete sentences and emphasized emotion and subjectivity (Han, 2003, p. 17), which is consistent with the predictions of Halls model that Eastern cultures tend to be mo re high-context in communication. Meanwhile, U.S. personal Web pages contained mor e explicit, direct expressions and complete sentences and addressed rational and objective statements (Han, 2003, p. 17). To sum up, the above studies (Cho et al., 1999; Kim & Papacharissi, 2003; Han, 2003) provide empirical evidence that cultural background and cultural values have impact on peoples way of communications. While so cial networking sites are becoming a new way of online communication, it is intere sting to examine whether different cultural values affect peoples use of SNS since no previous studies have examined any cultural differences of social networking sites usage. Therefore, this study looks at whether these different cultural values can be found in SNS uses, and the population of this study will be American natives and Chinese natives who are currently studying in the U.S. The reason to comp are these two cultures is because in Hofstedes (2001) country scores for 64 countries around the world, American culture ranks the highest in individualism (with a score of 91) and Chinese culture ranks am ong the lowest in individualism (with a score of 20), however, being low in indivi dualism does not necessarily means being high in collectivism. RQ3: How do the behaviors and motivations fo r using social networking sites compare between young American natives and Chinese natives?
30 CHAPTER 3 METHODS Participants and Procedures To exam ine these research questions, a Webbased questionnaire was designed and posted on the Web in spring 2008. Before data collec tion began, the survey was pre-tested by 15 students studying at University of Florida, a large Southeastern U.S. university, to examine question wording and formatting issues. The formal data collection started on March 19 and it was closed on April 7. The population for this study was young adults who are American natives and Chinese natives, but for this study, the samp ling frame was college students. The frame and rationale will be discussed below. The total n was 135, which included 54 Chinese natives (43.2%) and 71 American natives (56.8%). Specific demographic information will be discussed below in demographics. The sampling frame included American coll ege students and Chinese college students currently studying in the United States. College students were chosen because they are young adults who used social networking sites a lot in their daily life. Chinese natives currently in the U.S. were chosen because they have better Internet access in the U.S. than Chinese students in China. Moreover, since the survey was written in English, Chinese students currently studying in the U.S. were considered to have passed certa in language qualification ex ams such as TOEFL or GRE to be eligible to compre hend and respond to the survey. In order to recruit American students, the li nk of the questionnaire was sent to the e-mail list of graduate students at College of Journa lism and Communications at the University of Florida, and they were asked to forward this li nk to their friends. In order to recruit Chinese students, the link of the questionnaire was sent to the Chinese student s at UF by the UFCSS-L mailing list (UF Chinese Students and Scholars Cultu re Exchange Forum). This mailing list is
31 accessible to anyone who has subscribed to it and can be used to send emails to the whole mailing list. Email list respondents were asked to forward this message to their Chinese friends studying in other universities in U.S. In addition, the link of the survey was also posted in 10 online groups on Facebook. Facebook is chosen because it has lots of student groups. For American co llege students, five popular online groups were chosen: UF College of Journalism and Communications, Mass Comm Grad Students, Graduate St udents, Florida Gators and Six Degrees of Separation The Experiment. Six Degrees of SeparationT he Experiment is one of the biggest online groups on Facebook with 4,653,222 members by March 19, 2008, but not all members are students. Other four groups were all exclusively student groups, with much smaller numbers of members from 2,000 to 30,000, but most of these members are students. Five online groups were also chosen for Chin ese students: International Chinese, All the Chinese Speaking People on Facebook, Yes Were Chinese, Chinese American Association and We Study Abroad, We Love Ch ina. Yes, Were Chinese is one of the biggest Facebook groups for Chinese people, and it had 71, 200 members by the date when the survey was posted. All the Chinese Speaki ng People on Facebook was also popular, with 42,000 members. The other three groups are le ss popular, with 400 to 2,000 members. The link of the survey was posted in these ten groups, and the members were asked to take the survey and forward the link to their friends. During the time of data collec tion, two reminders were sent to the mailing list and posted in the online groups. After all data was collected, the data was downloaded from the Web survey tool. After examining the data, ten of the initia l 145 responses were delete d because they did not fit the study criteriathey either did not designate their country of origin or they were not
32 originally from either U.S. or Greater China. For the purpose of compar ing cultural difference, Greater China is used to include not only Ch inese people living in Ma inland China, but also people from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. Afte r cleaning the data, there were 125 responses in total. Demographics Respondents were asked to type their age at their last birthda y and select their gender by either m ale or female. They were also asked to mark their student status from freshman to graduate student. At the beginning of the surv ey, respondents were asked if they are Chinese native, American native or other. If they click other, they were not counted in the results. At last, they were asked to type their country of origin again. If the respondent was a Chinese native, they were asked to type their place of origin as Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Macau, in order to see if ther e are any differences between these four groups who all belonged to the Greater China. The respondents were asked to type their current college or university to make sure they are currently studying in the U.S. At la st, the respondents were asked to indicate their length of stay in U.S. in order to avoid the in fluence of American culture on Chinese natives. The demographics of the respondents ar e as follows and listed in Table 3-1. Gender, age, place of origin and education: Of the 125 respondents, female respondents (67.2%) largely outnumbered male re spondents (32.8%). The age of the respondents ranged from 18 years to 52 years. The median ag e was 24 years. The majority of the respondents ranged from 22 years to 27 years (77.6%). Of the 125 respondents, 71 of them (56.8%) were United States natives and 54 of them (43.2%)were natives of Greater China. As to the student status of these respondents, 10.4% of them were undergraduate st udents and 88% of them were graduate students.
33 Frequency of social networking sites usage: Of all the respondent s of this study, 1.6% ( n=125) of them have never used social networking sites, and the rest 98.4% have used SNS. In a typical week, 7.2% of the responde nts said that they used SNS less than once per week, 15.2% said they used SNS 1-2 times a week, 14.4% said they used SNS 3-5 times a week, 16.8% of them said that they used SNS once a day, and 44.8% said that they used SNS several times a day. The average times that the respondents spent on SN S were from 3-5 times a week to once a day (M=3.72, SD=1.429). However, nearly half of th e respondents (44.8%) used SNS several times a day, which indicated that nearly half of them used SNS very frequently. Time of social networking sites usage: Among all the 125 respondents of this study, 3.2% reported having been using SNS for less than 6 months; 7.2% reported having been using SNS for 6-12 months; 23.2% said that they ha d been using SNS for about 1-2 years and 65.6% said they had been using SNS for more than 2 ye ars. The average time that the respondents had already used SNS was from 1-2 years to more than two years (M=3.50, SD= .829). Moreover, the majority of the users have been usi ng SNS for more than one year (88.8%). Type of social networking used: Most of the respondents have used Facebook (91.2%, n=114). More than half of the respondents have used MySpace (53.6%, n=67). MSNSpace was the third most common site used, according to the respondents, with 51 respondents (40.8%) saying that they have used MSNSpace; 8% have used Q Zone and 6.4% have used other SNS. Measurement Social Networking Sites Behaviors and Motivations The social networking sites behaviors and m o tivations measurements were derived from the scale based on Internet Motives Scale used by Papacharissi and R ubin (2000). The categories of motivations are divided as below: interpers onal needs, self-presentation, self-documentation,
34 self-expression, information needs, escape, entert ainment, passing time and trendy needs. All the categories of motivations and their correspondent indicators are listed below in Table 3-2. Interpersonal needs, which include relationshi p maintenance and online interactivity, were operationalized in questions 5-11 and 30. Among a ll these interpersonal questions, questions 5, 7, 8 were developed from Ellison, Steinfeild & Lampes (2007) findings about Facebook and relationships maintenance, and questions 6, 9, 10, 11 and 30 were developed from Papacharissi & Rubins (2000) Internet Motive s Scales. Self-present ation needs was asked in questions 12-14. These three questions were developed by the au thor of this study, based on Boyd & Heers article about social networking sites and iden tity building (2006). Self-expression needs was asked in questions 15 and 16, developed from Li s (2005) study about motivations of blogging. Self-documentation needs were asked in questi ons 17 and 18, also developed from Lis (2005) study of blogging motivations. Information need s was asked in questions 19, 20, 21, 22 and 31, developed from Lis (2005) study. Passing time was asked in question 23. Using SNS to feel trendy was asked in questions 24-25; entertainm ent in questions 26-28; and escape in 30-32, and all these questions were deve loped from Papacharissi & Rubi ns (2000) study. Respondents were asked to use a 7-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree to indicate their level of agreement. Cultural Measures: Individualism and Collectivism Based on the theoretical fra meworks by Hofs tede (1980) and Cho et al.s study (1999), questions regarding cultural differences were designed and asked in questions 34. Individualism was operationali zed into questions 34, 39 and 40, among which question 34 was designed by the author of this study and questions 39 and 40 were designed with the help of the authors advisor. Collectivism was operat ionalized into questions 35, 36, 37, 38, 41, among which 35, 36, 37 were designed by the author of this study and 38, 41 were designed with the
35 help of the authors advisor. Responses of both Chinese and American natives to other questions were compared as well. Respondents were asked to use a 7-point scale from strongly disagree to strongly agree to indicate their level of ag reement. The indicators of individualism and collectivism are listed below in Table 3-3. Data Analysis All data analysis was conducted using the SPSS 16.0 program. A factor analysis was run to group the different indicators and further extract motivations. An indicator was kept if it had a primary loading of 0.60 or higher than 0.60 on one factor and meanwhile it had a secondary loading lower than 0.30 on another factor (Dillon & Goldstein, 1984). Then a minimum reliability test was performed to see the re liability of the factors extracted. A minimum Cronbachs alpha of 0.7 is required (Chin, 1998). Gender-related and cultural-related research questions would be answered based on the results collected from the four different groups of people: American males, American females, Chinese males and Chinese females. In orde r to examine whether there are any gender differences, American males and Chinese ma les were taken as one group while American females and Chinese females were taken as th e other to be analyzed. Cultural issues could be represented from the respondents when consider American males and American females as a group, while Chinese males and Chinese fema les as the other. Numerical mean of each motivation would be calculated, and ANOVA would be a pplied on both gender test and cultural test.
36 Table 3-1. Demographics of respondents Group (N=125) Frequency Percentage Gender Female 84 67.2 Male 41 32.8 Place of Origin United States 71 56.8 Greater China 54 43.2 Student Status Undergraduate 13 10.4 Degreed undergraduate 1 0.8 Graduate student 110 88.0 Other 1 0.8 Frequency of use (M=3.72, SD=1.429) Never used SNS 2 1.6 Less than once a week 9 7.2 1-2 times a week 19 15.2 3-5 times a week 18 14.4 Once a day 21 16.8 Several times a day 56 44.8 Time of Use (M=3.50, SD= .829) Never used SNS 1 0.8 Less than 6 months 4 3.2 6-12 months 9 7.2 1-2 years 29 23.2 2 years or more 82 65.6 Name of SNS you have used Facebook 114 91.2 MySpace 67 53.6 MSNSpace 51 40.8 Q Zone 10 8.0 Other SNS 8 6.4
37 Table 3-2. Indicator s of motivations Motivation Indicators Keep in touch with my old friends who I don't see frequently (question 5) Meet new people online (question 6) Make plans with friends who I don't see frequently (question 7) Keep in touch with people when I move from one place to another (question 8) Receive feedback and comments about things I write (question 9) Connect to those who share the same interest or values with me (question 10) Stay connected to friends and family easily (question 30) Interpersonal need Provide comments or feedback about what others write (question 11) I want people to know things about me (question 12) People can get to know the real me (question 13) Self-presentation I want to show others my personality. (question 14) I can talk about my emotions (question 15) Self-expression I felt comfortable expressing my feelings online (question 16) I use these sites to remember things (question 17) Self-documentation Keep a journal of my daily life on a social networking site (question 18) Share with others those things I find interesting (question 19) Share some information that I am concerned about (question 20) See what others posted on their sites (question 21) Post links that direct people to other fabulous websites (question 22) Information need Post things I want to say at any time (question 31) I can escape from the real wo rld for a while (question 32) Escape I stop thinking about my work or school (question 33) I do it for fun (question 27) I like to use it (question 28) Entertainment Its enjoyable (question 29) Passing time Its better than doing nothing (question 23) Using a SNS makes me feel cool and stylish (question 25) Trendiness Having a trendy or cutting edge SNS makes me feel good (question 26)
38 Table 3-3. Indicators of cultural dimensions I want to show my original ity, personality or creativity I customize my profile page to stand out from all the others Individualism My profile reflects my uniqueness My SNS activity reflects my cultural heritage I customize my profile page to look like my friends pages My SNS activities are similar to other people like me When people I know add new features on their site, I like to add it to my site as well I would like my opinions to be cons istent with my friends in order to avoid any possible conflict Collectivism Everyone else is using them, so I dont want to be left out
39 CHAPTER 4 FINDINGS Factor Results A factor analysis with VARIMAX r otation was performed and five initial factors were extracted. Details are listed below in Table 4-1 The first set of eight indicator s initially developed for inte rpersonal communication turned out to load separately on two f actors, with three of them loaded on the first factor and four of them loaded on the second one. The assessment of the variables is based on the statistical significance of the correlation coefficient (loa ding). Variables with higher loadings are considered to have greater infl uence (Dillon & Goldstein, 1984). The loadings have to be at least 0.60 or above to indicate that the indicator accoun ts for more than 50% of the variance (Chin, 1998). Moreover, since a factor needs to be as dist inctive as possible, an indicator needs to load higher than 0.60 on the primary factor and lowe r than 0.30 on secondary factor (Dillon & Goldstein, 1984; Chin, 1998). The indicator I use these sites to make plans with my friends failed to have a loading higher than 0.60 and also loaded simila rly on both factors and therefore was not included in the analysis. The first factor was characterized as Rela tionship Maintenance, with a total initial Eigenvalue of 2.00 and 66.69% of variance explained (Cronbach =0.741). Three indicators loaded high on this factor. They are respectively: to keep in touch with people when I move from one place to another, to keep in touch w ith my old friends whom I dont see frequently and to stay connected with my family and friends easily. These three indicators were developed from Ellison, Steinfield and Lampes (2007) study about how users accumulated their social networking resources from their use of Facebook, and these indicators were initially developed to study the maintenance of pre-existi ng offline relationship on Facebook. Here in this
40 study, these indicators all suggest that users participate in SNS to maintain their relationships with people they already know off line, including family members, friends and classmates, etc. Therefore, this factor was characterized as Relationship Maintenance. The second factor was characterized as SNS In teractivity, with a to tal initial Eigenvalue of 2.30 and 57.6% of variance explained (Cronbach =0.748). Four indicators, which were expected to load together with the previous th ree interpersonal indicato rs, actually loaded higher on the second factor. These indicators are separately: receive comments and feedback about what I write, provide comments and feedback about what others write, connect to those who share the same interests or values with me, and to meet new people online. These four indicators were originally developed and ad apted from Papacharissi and Rubins (2000) motivation of interpersonal utility. However, inter personal would be a litt le bit general for this factor because this dimension doesnt necessarily refer to keeping connected with friends. Instead, these indicators emphasize the users wi llingness to interact w ith other people whom they may know or dont know in the real life. By receiving an d providing their comments and feedback, SNS users communicate with each other interactively. Connecti ng to those who share the same interests and meeting new people online would also allow them to interact with each other. Unlike relationship maintenance, this factor also indicates communication with new people met online. Therefore, this factor was characterized as SNS Interactivity. The third factor was termed as Personal Expr essive Needs, with an initial Eigenvalue of 4.20 and 70.05% of total vari ance explaine d (Cronbach =0.913). Six indicators loaded high on this factor. The indicator I use these sites to remember things lo aded lower than 0.60 on primary factor and loaded higher than 0.30 on sec ondary factor, and was therefore excluded from the analysis. Initially the six indicators of this thir d factor were listed as in three categories: (1)
41 expressing ones views, opinions feelings and emotions; (2) documenting ones daily personal life; (3) present and showcase ones personality and characteristic After a factor analysis, the indicators of these three categor ies loaded high on a single factor Looking back at Lis (2005) study of blog motivations, the items about presenti ng ones personality were also characterized as self-expression needs. In this study, besides expressing oneself and presenting ones personality, the indicator to keep a journal of my daily life also indicates the users efforts to tell others about their life sin ce these journals can be seen by everyone in their social network. These six indicators all represent users need to e xpress either their views and feelings or things about them. Therefore, this factor was char acterized as Personal Expressive Needs. The fourth factor was Information Shari ng, with an initial Ei genvalue of 2.61 and 65.33% of total variance explained (Cronbach =0.817). Four indicators loaded high on this factor. The item to see what others posted on their sites loaded lower than 0.60 on any factors and was discarded from the analysis. The other four indicat ors are share informati on that I am concerned about, post things that I like to say at anytime, share with ot hers things I found interesting, and post links that direct peopl e to other websites. These indicators all represent the need to seek for information and share information with other people. Social networking sites allow users to share and exchange information. This fa ctor was characterized as Information Sharing. The fifth factor was charact erized as Diversion, with an initial Eigenvalue of 3.09 and 51.50 % of total variance explained (Cronbach =0.791). Six indicators loaded high on this factor, but among them the item Its better than doing nothing loaded a l ittle bit lower than 0.60. A reliability test showed that the Cronbachs Alpha didnt chan ge a lot if this indicator was deleted. Therefore, this item was kept in the anal ysis. The six indicators of diversion needs were initially categorized as escape, entertainment and passing time, but loaded on the same factor.
42 They are separately: I do it for fun, Its bett er than doing nothing, I can escape from the real world, Its enjoyable, I stop thinking about work and I like to use it. No matter whether it is escape or entertainment, it diverts peoples atte ntion and gives them pleasure. This factor was therefore characterized as Diversion. Although five motivations were extracted fr om factor analysis, there is still one motivation--trendy need--that cant be run by a fact or analysis because it on ly has two indicators. A correlation was tested and there is a significant positive association ( r =0.71, p<0.001) between the two indicators: Having a trendy or cutting edge SNS makes me feel good and Using a SNS makes me feel cool and st ylish. Therefore, the sixth factor was combined by these two items and characterized as Trendy need. In all, six factors were extracted for this study. They are: relationship maintenance, SNS interactivity, personal expressive needs, information sh aring, diversion and trendy needs. Since this study is a cross-cultural study a nd for the purpose of comparing the cultural perspectives termed individualism and collectivism, a factor an alysis was performed again for the indicators of these two perspectives. Deta ils of the results are listed in Table 4-2. Six indicators were initially developed for measuring collectivism. They are separately I would like my opinions to be c onsistent with my friends to avoid possible conflicts, I customize my profile to look like my friends My SNS reflects my cultural heritage, Everyone else is using them, so I dont want to be left out, My SNS activities are similar to other people like me, and When people I know add new features to their sites, I add them too. Among these items, My SNS activities are similar to other people like me loaded lower than 0.60 and was therefore discarded from the anal ysis. The other five items loaded high on collectivism with an initial Eigenvalue of 2.64 and 52.8% total variance explained ( =0.760).
43 Three indicators initially developed for indi vidualism all loaded high on this factor, with an eigenvalue of 2.197 and 73.25% of variance explained ( =0.815). These items are I customize my SNS profile to stand out from others, My SNS profile reflects my uniqueness and I want to show my personal ity, creativity and originality. Frequencies and Correlation of Factors After the six factors were yielded, six new variables were computed by summ ing up all the indicators loaded on each factor. In order to answer RQ 1, mean scores were calculated for each factor in order to see the level of agreem ent that the participants expressed for each motivation. The mean scores range from 1 (strong ly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree). Table 4-3 displays the average mean score of each motivation. Among all these motivations, relationship maintenance was the most popular reason for using social networking sites, with a very high average mean score (M=6.18, SD=0.95). The second highest was diversion (M=4.75, SD= 1.16). The following motivations are: online interactivity (M=4.20, SD=1.36), information needs (M=4.17, SD=1.50), personal expressive needs (M=3.67, SD=1.52) and trendy needs (M=3 .41, SD=1.73). The mean scores for personal expressive needs and trendy needs are a little bit lower than 4. The correlations of each motivation were also tested. Most of the motivations interrelate with each of the others except the motivations relationship maintenance and personal expressive needs, and relationship maintenance and tre ndy needs. Among these correlations, online interactivity, information and diversion have co rrelations with each of the other motivations. The strongest correlation was between online interactivity and personal expressive needs, online activity and information needs, personal expr essive needs and information needs, personal expressive needs and trendy needs. The details are listed below in Table 4-4.
44 Demographic Differences of Uses and Motivations In order to answer RQ 2 and RQ 3, demogr aphic differences of so cial networking usage and motivations were tested by one-way ANOVA. Gender For the purpose of this study to examine whet her there are gender diffe rences in term s of social networking sites uses and motivations, a one-way ANOVA was performed for each of the motivations. One-way ANOVA was used to examine differences among two or more groups. Gender was used as an independent variable and each motivation was used as a dependent variable in separate analysis. The results are di splayed in Table 8. In the population of this study, males and females didnt exhibit any significant differences in te rms of using social networking sites for online activity, personal expressive n eeds, information seeking and sharing, diversion needs and trendy needs. However, men and women ha ve significant differences in terms of using SNS for relationship maintenance (F=6.11, p<0.05). Female respondents were more likely to use SNS to maintain relationships with their friends and family members. Besides motivations, females and males were also compared in terms of collectivism and individualism; however, no signifi cant gender differences were found in this perspective. Results are displayed in Table 4-6. Cultural Background In order to exam ine whether th ere are cultural differences in terms of social networking sites usage and motivations, a one-way ANOVA was performed for each motivation. Cultural background was set as an independent variable and each motivation was set as dependent variable in separate analysis. The results are displayed in Table 4-7. In the population of this study, U.S. natives and Chinese natives dont exhib it any differences in terms of using SNS for diversion. But except for diversion, U.S. stude nts and Chinese students have significant
45 differences in other five motivations. They are separately: relationship maintenance (F=5.07, p<0.05), interactivity (F=11.65, p<0.01), pers onal expressive needs (F=19.65, p<0.001), information needs (F=11.23, p<0.01) and trendy needs (F=28.54, p<0.001). Compared with Chinese students currently living in U.S., U.S. students are more likely to use SNS for relationship maintenance (MU.S.=6.38, MChina=5.90). Compared with U.S. students, Chinese students in U.S. are more like ly to use SNS for online interactivity (MU.S.=3.73, MChina=4.75), for personal expressive needs (MU.S.=3.04, MChina=4.46), for information (MU.S.=3.68, MChina=4.75) and trendy needs (MU.S.=2.65, MChina=4.38). Moreover, based on previous studies on colle ctivism and individualism (Hofstede, 1980), the two factors collectivism and individualism were also tested to examine whether these cultural perspectives can be reflected in social networ king sites usage. The results of the ANOVA are displayed in Table 4-8. There is a significant difference in terms of collectivism between U.S. students and Chinese students use of SNS (F=20.07, p<0.001), and there is also a significant differences in terms of individualism between U.S. and Chinese students use of SNS (F=7.47, p<0.01). In the population of this study, Chinese students showed more co llectivism attributes than U.S. students (MU.S.=2.98, MChina= 3.95), but they also exhibited more individualism attributes than U.S. students (MU.S.=3.84, MChina=4.19).
46 Table 4-1. Factor analysis loading for each motivation Indicators Loadings 1 2 3 4 5 Factor 1. Relationship maintenance (Eigenvalue=2.00) Keep in touch with people when I move 0.84 Keep in touch with my old friends 0.85 Stay connected with my family and friends easily 0.77 Factor 2. SNS Interactivity (Eigenvalue=2.30) Receive comments and feedback about what I write 0.81 Meet new people online 0.66 Provide feedback and comments 0.84 Connect to those who share same interests with me 0.70 Factor 3. Personal expressive needs (Eigenvalue=2.40) People can get to know the real me 0.87 I want people to know things about me 0.84 I can talk about my emotions 0.89 I want to show others my personality 0.85 to keep a journal of my daily life 0.72 I felt comfortable expressing my feelings 0.84 Factor 4. Information Sharing (Eigenvalue=2.41) Share some information that I'm concerned about 0.84 Post things that I lik e to say at anytime 0.76 Share with others things I found interesting 0.87 Post links that direct people to other websites 0.77 Factor 5. Diversion (Eigenvalue=3.09) I do it for fun 0.72 It's better than doing nothing 0.53 I can escape from the real world for a while 0.63 It's enjoyable 0.85 I stop thinking about my school or work 0.74 I like to use it 0.80
47 Table 4-2. Factor loading for collectivism and individualism Indicators Loading Collectivism Individualism Factor 1. Collectivism (e igenvalue=2.640) I would like my opinions to be c onsistent with my friends 0.70 I customize my profile to look like my friends 0.78 My SNS reflects my cultural heritage 0.73 When people add new features, I add too 0.80 Everyone else is using them 0.60 Factor 2. Individualism (Eigenvalue=2.197) I customize my profile to stand out from others 0.85 My SNS reflects my uniqueness 0.90 I want to show my personality, creativity and originality 0.82
48 Table 4-3. Mean score and standa rd deviation for each motivation. Motivation Items Mean SD Factor 1. Relationship maintenance 6.18 0.95 Keep in touch with my old friends 6.17 1.10 Keep in touch with people when I move 6.44 1.06 Stay connected with my friends and family 5.92 1.40 Factor 2. SNS Interactivity 4.20 1.36 Receive comments and feedback 4.40 1.98 Meet new people online 3.16 1.84 Provide comments and feedback 4.68 1.73 Connect to those share same interests with me 4.37 1.73 Factor 3. Personal Expressive needs 3.67 1.52 People get to know the real me 3.95 1.89 I want people to know things about me 4.37 1.73 I can talk about my emotions 3.36 1.92 Show others my personality 4.50 1.73 Express my feelings 3.58 1.81 Keep a journal of my life 2.51 1.80 Factor 4. Information Sharing 4.17 1.50 Share information I am concerned about 4.06 1.83 Post things I like to say at anytime 4.15 1.99 Post links that direct people to websites 3.67 1.95 Share with others things I find interesting 4.68 1.73 Factor 5. Diversion 4.75 1.16 I do it for fun 5.72 1.40 It's better than doing nothing 4.33 1.79 It's enjoyable 5.431.26 I like to use it 5.241.58 I stop thinking about my school or work 4.17 1.90 I can escape from the real world for a while 3.401.90 Factor 6. Trendy needs 3.411.73 Having a trendy SNS makes me feel good 3.461.92 Using a SNS makes me f eel cool and stylish 3.361.82
49 Table 4-4. Correlations between motivations Motivations 1 2 3 4 5 6 1. Relationship maintenance 1.00 2. Interactivity 0.20* 1.00 3. Personal expression 0.12 0.74** 1.00 4. Information sharing 0.26** 0.77** 0.75** 1.00 5. Diversion 0.35** 0.58** 0.48** 0.61** 1.00 6. Trendy 0.03 0.69** 0.80** 0.65** 0.51** 1.00 p < 0.05. ** p < 0.01. Table 4-5. Comparison of motivations for female and male students Female Male Motivation Mean SD Mean SD df Mean Square F Sig. Relationship maintenance 6.34(N=81) 0.85 5.82(N=38) 1.07 1 7.02 8.19 0.005* Interactivity 4.07(N=77) 1.35 4.43(N=37) 1.35 1 3.26 1.78 0.18 Personal expression 3.66(N=79) 1.51 3.68(N=32) 1.57 1 0.01 0.00 0.95 Information 4.15(N=78) 1.48 4.20(N=36) 1.56 1 0.06 0.03 0.88 Diversion 4.86(N=75) 1.11 4.53(N=37) 1.24 1 2.71 2.03 0.16 Trendy 3.30(N=80) 1.77 3.63(N=39) 1.65 1 2.72 0.90 0.34 *p<0.01 Table 4-6. Individualism and co llectivism comparison between female and male students Female Male Total Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD F Sig. Collectivism 2.82(N=69) 5.79 3.19(N=35) 6.23 2.94 5.97 2.16 0.145 Individualism 4.23(N=81) 4.47 4.12(N=37) 4.72 4.2 4.54 0.15 0.697
50 Table 4-7. Comparison of motivations for U.S. and Chinese students U.S. China Motivation Mean SD Mean SD df Mean Square F Sig. Relationship maintenance 6.38(N=68) 0.78 5.90(N=51) 1.09 1 6.54 7.60 0.007** Interactivity 3.73(N=62) 1.31 4.75(N=52) 1.20 1 29.43 18.40 0.000** Personal expressive need 3.04(N=62) 1.21 4.46(N=49) 1.51 1 54.73 29.96 0.000** Information 3.68(N=62) 1.51 4.75(N=52) 1.40 1 32.53 16.48 0.000** Diversion 4.89(N=62) 1.13 4.58(N=50) 1.18 1 2.70 2.03 0.16 Trendy 2.65(N=67) 1.46 4.38(N=52) 1.57 1 87.41 38.31 0.000** *p<0.05,**p<0.01 Table 4-8. Individualism vs. collectivism co mparison for U.S. and Chinese students United States Greater China Total Mean SD Mean SD Mean SD F Sig. Collectivism 2.98(N=59) 0.98 3.95(N=45)1.063.4 1.11 20.07 0.000** Individualism 3.84(N=65) 1.5 4.63(N=53)1.414.19 1.51 7.47 0.007*
51 CHAPTER 5 DISCUSSION The purpose of this study is (1) to explore the way people use social netw orking sites and their underlying motivations; and (2) to find out whether and how two demographic variables gender and cultural background affect social netw orking sites users behavior and motivations. This present study indicates that generally coll ege students (regardless of gender and cultural differences) use social networking sites to maintain their relationships, to in teract with others, to share information and for diversion. Men and wo men generally meet the same needs by using social networking sites. But signi ficant cultural differe nces are found in uses and motivations of these sites. This chapter will address the interpre tation of the results, the limitations and further implications. The interpretations followed below are organized in three parts. The first part addresses the uses and motivations of social networking sites in general, regardless of gender and cultural differences. The second part discus ses about gender differences in social networking sites uses and motivations. The third part discusses about cu ltural differences in social networking sites uses and motivations. Social Networking Sites Uses and Motivations in General This study identified six motivations for using social networking sites: relationship maintenance, interactivity, information sharing, personal expressive need s, diversion and trendy needs. The motivations that have a mean score above 4, which is the middle point of the 7-point scale, are considered as primary ones: relati onship maintenance, interactivity, information sharing and diversion. Consistent with prio r Internet motivation studies, relationship maintenance and interactivity represent the users need to communicate, socialize and interact with others; information sharing represent the need to find, provide and share information; and
52 diversion represents the need to get relaxed a nd find entertainment. The other two motivations-personal expressive needs and trendy needs both have a mean score lower than 4, which indicates that on average respondents dont consider these two as their primary reasons for using social networking sites. Among all the six motivations, relationship ma intenance is the biggest reason for using social networking sites. This result supports Ellison et al.s finding (2007) that Facebook users are most likely to use these sites to keep in touch with old friends. When it comes to more types of social networking sites including Facebook, My Space, MSNSpace, etc., this reason still came first. In this modern world, people are more and more getting used to contact each other online, and social networking sites are used as an in terpersonal communication tool that helps people stay connected. These sites can be considered as se rving the same role as the telephone or a letter, but they have new features; for example, th ey are open to other users, and they support multimedia functions. Keeping in touch with ol d friends and family members is easy, fast, convenient and more fun in a social networking site. Another reason for using social networking sites is interactivity. Unlike relationship maintenance, interactivity represents the users efforts to socialize with others they might not know in real life. Using a social networking si te, people are able to provide comments and feedback to others postings, or receive comments and feedback from others. They can connect to those who share the same interests or values, without being restricted by geographical or other limits. Information sharing represents peoples efforts to share with others websites, things they find interesting and information that they are concerned about. In a social networking site, people are able to post links of different websites, up load pictures and videos, and share other kind of
53 online information. Unlike traditi onally looking for information online, social networking sites are used as a medium for excha nge and share of information. Diversion in this study includes entertainm ent, escape and passing time, but among these aspects people are most likely to say that they use SNS because it is fun and entertaining. Since social networking sites enable us ers to communicate with old frie nds, interact with each other, share interesting things, and present and express themselves, pe ople feel that these sites are fun and entertaining and begin to enjoy using them. Therefore, similar to watching television, listening to the radio and other ki nd of media consumption, using so cial networking sites is also an activity that brings people enjoyment and release. Personal expressive needs and trendy needs are not shown to be primary motivations for college students in general, but they are reas ons for Chinese college students to use social networking sites. This result will be explained later.. To sum up, young people are most likely to use social networking sites to maintain relationship with old friends and family members, and they also use these sites to interact with others, share information with each other and for diversion. Compared with an earlier study by Rubin and Papacharissi (2000) about general Internet use, interp ersonal needs (interacting with others) were the least agreed re ason for using Internet. However, in terms of social networking sites uses, young people not only interact with ot hers they dont know, they also move their interaction with friends and family members to online services. This indicates a strong relationship between real life and the Internet. People put their real information online, they talk with others they know in real lif e, and they expect to manage their real relationships in SNS. Different from some earlier online communities th at make people addicted to the virtual online world that totally disconnects from the real world, social networking sites dont remove people
54 from their real life; instead, they help to main tain and support existing re al-life relationships and keep people in good connection with each othe r. Communications with friends can be accomplished online; even some face-to-face inte ractions can be substituted by using social networking sites. Social networking sites actually free people from geographical limitations. Besides relationship maintenance, SNS also allow us ers to interact with others, share information and get entertainment. Except for diversion, which is a common motiv ation for many other online activities, relationship maintenance, intera ctivity and information sharing are all activities that are based on or related to human-to-human communication, which indicates that SNS activities are mostly around people. This study also found that all the motiva tions are correlated to each other, except relationship maintenance and trendy needs, and relationship maintenance and personal expressive needs. This might be because that the people who use SNS for relationship maintenance tend to consider SNS as a tool to communicate with others they already know in real life, and they may not care if it is trendy or not. For them SNS functions as a communicational tool, no different from Email or Instant Messenger. Moreover, personal expressive needs represent the need to expre ss the users themselves. One reasonable assumption is that the users desire to express their ideas an d interests, generally have little relevant impact on their needs to keep in touch with friends. In this study about SNS, the interper sonal dimension developed from Rubin and Papacharissis study (2000) loaded as two separate dimensions : relationship maintenance and interactivity. This is because previous online t ools and activities are not established as networks based on individuals information. Social netw orking sites are peoplebased networks where users can both maintain relationships with frie nds and look for new peopl e by shared interests,
55 therefore two different social needs can be satis fied in SNS. Another motivation not mentioned in prior studies is information sharing. Different from previous online communication tools, SNS allow people to share interesting things with fr iends and others. In SNS, people are satisfied by sharing and exchanging information with others instead of merely looking for information by themselves. Therefore, this study didnt replicate prior studies because of the nature of SNS, which represents improvement and a dvancement of Internet technology. Comparison of Male and Fema le Students in this Study Based on empirical studies that found gender di fferences in terms of Internet uses and motivations, male and female motivations for us ing social networking sites were compared. In the sample of this study, there is a significant difference between male and female in terms of using social networking sites to maintain relatio nships. Although relationship maintenance is the biggest reason for both men and wo men to use SNS, females are more likely to use them to maintain relationships with old friends and fam ily members, compared with males. There are no significant differences between male and female in terms of using social networking sites to interact with others, shar e information, express personal ideas, f eel trendy and get entertainment. Part of this finding that women are more likely to use SNS for relationship maintenance is consistent with some empirical studies (Wei ser, 2000; Boneva et al., 2001). Boneva et al. (2001) explained that certain communication tool, such as email, makes females feel emotionally intimate and enables them to share personal info rmation. Compared to females, males have a more instrumental style, and th ey prefer to have social activities together to maintain relationships (Boneva et al., 2000). Therefore, so cial networking sites, which provide functions for people to share personal information, might attract more females to use them for relationship maintenance. For example, in a prior study (Bone va et al., 2000) females are more likely than males to write Emails to friends and relatives, and in this study, females are more likely to send
56 in site mails, leave messages or have other ways of communication with friends and relatives in a social networking site. However, except for relationship mainte nance, gender differen ces were not found in terms of using social networking sites for other reasons including information sharing, interactivity, personal expression, diversion and tr endy needs, and this part of the finding will be explained below comparing with prior gender studies. Although a prior study (Wasserman, 2005) found th at women were more likely than men to use Internet to communicate with friends a nd others they may not know, and men were more likely than women to use Internet to share in terests and hobbies with others, no significant differences were found between men and women in terms of using SNS for interactivity in this study. This is because interactivity in this study includes both connecting to those with shared interests and exchanging comments and feedback and communicating with others. Therefore, men and women in this study are bo th satisfied by interactivity. In terms of personal expressi on needs, although Li (2005) found out that females are more likely to express themselves in blogging, the situation is different in social networking sites. Unlike blogs, social networking sites are able to link different people by the personal information they provided, including their education, interests, and hobbies etc. This feature in SNS therefore drives males to characterize themselves by descri bing their personality and interests. Therefore, although women were found to be more likely to express themselves in prior study, men and women in this study both like to express themselves in SNS. Prior studies (Li, 2005; Jackson et al., 2001) f ound that men are more likely to use Internet to look for information, but it is not in contra dictory with the finding of this study because sharing information is different from looking for information. Information sharing is people-
57 based exchange of information. Although men are more likely to look for information online, men and women in this study have no differences in terms of sharing information in SNS. No gender differences are found in terms of trendy needs in SNS uses. Although no prior studies found gender differences in terms of usin g media for feeling trend y, Jackson et al. (2001) indicated that men were more sensitive to co mputer technology innovati on. However, women are also getting increasingly experi enced with Internet (Boneva et al., 2001). Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that nowadays women are getting more familiar with new online technology; women are more likely than before to consider SNS as everyday activity instead of cutting edge technology. This also proves Weisers (2000) finding that gender gap in terms of the general attitude towards In ternet is diminishing. Finally, the findings above showed no gender di fferences in using SNS for diversion. Since SNS satisfies both men and womens needs to comm unicate with others and share information, it is logical to assume that both men and women in this study enj oyed using SNS and tend to agree that diversion is one of their motivations to use SNS. To summarize, although females in this study ar e still more likely than males to use SNS for relationship maintenance, generally speaki ng, gender differences are decreasing in SNS usage in this study. Two reasons may be responsib le for the finding: first, women are getting more and more involved in Internet and playi ng an important role in online activities; second, SNS attract users by its multiple functions that sa tisfy needs for both males and females in this study. Comparison of U.S. and Chinese Students in this Study Individualism vs. Collectivism Based on previous studies about cultural perspectives of in dividualism and collectivism, these two concepts were operationalized and comp ared between U.S. natives and Chinese natives
58 currently in the U.S. The finding of this study suggests that there are significant differences between U.S. natives and Chinese natives in term s of collectivism in SNS usage, and there are significant differences between U.S. natives and Chinese natives in terms of individualism in SNS usage. Chinese natives in this study exhibited more co llectivist attributes th an U.S. natives. This is consistent with Hofstedes (1980) suggestions that Chinese culture (Eastern culture) is more collectivist than U.S. culture (Western cultu re). Chinese culture tends to emphasize group consensus and group harmony; these values may be reflected when Chinese natives use social networking sites. Compared with American native s, Chinese natives are more likely to value ingroup consistency and consensus (De Mooij, 2005). This study found that while using social networking sites, Chinese students are more likely to keep their opinions consistent with their friends to keep in-group harmony, and they are more likely to make their profile look like their friends, when other people add new features to their SNS, they tend to follow. Compared with American natives, Chinese natives are more likely to agree that they use SNS because everyone else is using them. Therefore, Chinese natives in this study showed more care and emphasis for in-group unity and consistency, and thus exhibited more colle ctivist attributes. However, the findings about individualis m in two countries dont support Hofstedes (1980) suggestions that U.S. cultu re is more individualist than Chinese culture. According to Hofstede (1980), Chinese culture does not value individual di fferences, individual accomplishments and individual reliance as much as U.S. culture, but in the sample of this study, Chinese natives currently living in U.S. exhibited more individualist attributes than U.S. natives. To explain this finding, it might be essential to look at the features of the Chinese natives in the sample of this study.
59 First of all, Chinese natives who use social networking sites in this study are mostly young people in their twenties, so th is group of young people might have inherited some traditional Chinese values, but they also tend to have i ndividualist attributes under the influences of Western media. Moreover, although these Chinese na tives are mostly young people, they are also young people currently living in U.S. This group of people who decided to leave their home country alone and study abroad might have more indi vidualist characteristics in nature than those who live in China. And it is possible that Ch inese people in China might exhibit higher collectivism than individualism. In addition, Chines e students in the U.S. made their decisions to study in the U.S., which might also indicate that they have tendencies to acknowledge and accept American culture. Therefore, in the sample of this study, Chinese natives currently living in the U.S. exhibited more individuali st characteristics, such as se lf-reliance and uniqueness; they tended to value individual differences, indivi dual uniqueness and individual accomplishments more than American natives did while using social networking sites. Therefore, Hofstedes (1980) propositions are only partially supported in social networking sites usage in this study. Although collec tivism values still exis t in this sample of Chinese SNS users, individualism values also have great influences on these young people. These people can be seen as combinations of Ch inese traditional values and Western values. The Chinese traditional value of the importance of group decision-making rooted in their mind, but Western values of individual uni queness also influenced them. Th ese people who currently live in United States might be less collectivist and mo re individualist than Chinese natives living in China.
60 Motivations of U.S. and Chinese Students in this Study In order to b etter explore cultural related diffe rences in terms of social networking sites uses and motivations, besides individualism a nd collectivism, the motivations for using SNS were also compared between U.S. natives and Chinese natives currently in U.S. This study indicates U.S. and Chinese stude nts are significantly different in terms of using social networking sites to maintain relatio nships, interact with others, share information, express ideas and feel trendy. No significant di fferences were found between U.S. and Chinese students in terms of using social networking sites for diversion. Compared to U.S. students, Chinese students in this study are more likely to use social networking sites to interact with others. This is not surprising because these Chinese students are currently living in the U.S. In a relatively new and unfamiliar environment, they may have strong needs to develop new social networks and partic ipate in social activities. By using social networking sites to interact with others or connect to others base d on shared interests, they are able to satisfy some of their social ne eds or establish new social relationships. Compared with U.S. college students, Chin ese students in this study are more likely to use social networking sites for personal expre ssion. This might be explained by the same reason that Chinese students use SNS for interactivit y. When these young people start to live and study in a new and different country, they are in need of new social relationshi ps. SNS, the same as other online activities, become th eir primary tool to establish ne w social connections. Different from many other online communication tools, SNS connect users by linking their personal information, education background, hobbies, etc., ther efore, this feature tr iggers the users to characterize and express themselves to seek for potential social connections. In terms of information motivation, Chinese st udents in this study are more likely than U.S. students to use social networking sites fo r sharing information. This might be explained by
61 the fact that Chinese students in the U.S. have less media options than U.S. students. Yang, Wu, Zhu and Southwells study (2004) about media use among Chinese students in the U.S. found that Chinese students in U.S. mostly use U.S. traditional media, such as newspapers and television, to understand U.S. cultures. But when Chinese students in U.S. needed to find some information related to their home c ountry, they usually turned to Inte rnet. Therefore, the fact that Chinese students currently living in the U.S. use Internet as a major source for their information explains the finding that they are more likely to use social networking sites for information sharing. Moreover, since these Chinese students live d in China for most of their life, they might have got accustomed to sharing information w ith friends online, since lots of information distributions in China are limited and controlled. Therefore, when they came to the U.S., they still like to use social networking sites to sh are information with friends and other people. In addition, compared with U.S. students, Chinese students in this study are more likely to consider using social networ king sites as trendy. This can be explained by the fact that in developing countries like China, social networking sites are s till relatively new. Young people who came to the U.S. would love the opportunity to utilize the well-establis hed tool in the U.S. to feel trendy. Compared with Chinese students, U.S. students in this study are more likely to use social networking sites to maintain relationships with old friends or other pre-existing connections. Since social networking sites are relatively new in China, it is reasonable to assume that fewer connections were established among Chinese students using SNS. With fewer friends available on theses sites, Chinese students are less likely than U.S. students to use SNS to maintain relationships with old friends.
62 Therefore, Chinese students in the U.S. are more likely to use social networking sites to interact with others, express themselves, share in formation and feel trendy, but are less likely to use these sites to maintain relationships with old friends. Limitations This study has several lim itations. First of all, the study aimed to study the uses and gratifications of young people, but used a conveni ence sample of college students. This poses some limitations to the generalizability of the findings of this study, si nce a different population other than students group may pr oduce different results. Therefor e, the study results cant be generalized to wider SNS users. The small samp le size of 125 also put limitations to the study, because a larger sample size leads to increase d precision in estimating the population from which the sample was drawn. Moreover, among the sample of this study, female s represent more than two thirds of all the respondents, which means that the total numbe r of females are more than twice than total number of males. This imbalance of female and male respondents might make the findings about males less representative than findings about females. In addition, the methodology of this study also yi elds some limitations. For the purpose of collecting survey results, the li nk of the Web-based survey was sent to some mailing lists and posted in ten online groups in Facebook as we ll. These posts in Facebook might bring more Facebook users as survey respondents. Although Facebook, MySpace and other SNS are basically similar in terms of functions, they also have their own features; for example, built-in blogs are especially popular in MySpace, but are not so popular in Facebook. Therefore, a sample with a majority of MySpace users might yield different findings about the uses and motivations of SNS.
63 Last but not least, for the purpose of langua ge qualification needed to comprehend the survey correctly, this study chose Chinese students currently in the U.S. to represent Chinese natives. However, this group of students might be different from Chinese natives in China since they are influenced by Western culture. A compar ison of U.S. natives and Chinese natives in China may also produce different results. Implications This study, which applied uses and gratificat ions perspective to the em erging social networking sites, adds the following three things to mass communication literature: (1) new motivation in online activities, (2) diminishing gender differen ces, and (3) updates in cultural differences. These trends could be added to ma ss communication literature with considerable consistence with previous findings, as well as updates with the rapi dly changing Internet technologies and user behavi ors, as addressed below: New Motivation in Online Activities Inform ation sharing becomes a new motivation in online activities. On one hand, this is because of the special basis upon which SNS is built up. As mentioned above, users are linked as groups based on the information provided by themse lves. This kind of people-based networks of SNS drives the users to communi cate and share information with each other. On the other hand, from a wider perspective, people de sire to help friends to locate online resources, given the faster growing amount of information online. This indica tes that new social software such as social networking sites have promoted the exchange of information and also diversified media behaviors. Faced with new functions of online so ftware, people are able to extend their media behaviors and further havi ng their needs satisfied. Future studies about SNS could try to explor e this new motivation, information sharing, in a more detailed way. Studies could be developed to find out what exactly people are sharing with
64 each other, since there are lots of stuff that can be shared, for example, links of websites, news story, funny videos, etc. Moreover, studies could also be devel oped to find out the underlying reasons for people to share information. Do they share to help their friends to find interesting things? Or do they share for other reasons? Diminishing Gender Differences Consistent with prior studies, this study found that fem ale students are more likely to use SNS for relationship maintenance. Future studies should try to find out specifically how men and women are different in relationship maintenance, since there might be several ways for people to maintain relationships in a social networking si te, and it will be interes ting to see how men and women differently maintain relationships. One interesting finding is that different from the image of female Internet users in prior studies (Jackson et al., 2001), women nowadays may not have as much negative attitudes towards new Internet technologies as they were depicted before. They could be more interested than before in using new communication tools, such as SNS, and enjoy themselves by using these tools to communicate with fri ends and others. Relationship ma intenance, one of the biggest reasons for female Internet users (Jackson et al., 2001; Weiser, 2003), becomes the biggest motivation among all the ones in the study. This raises a growing importance of understanding females online behaviors to the scholars in mass communication. On the other hand, male users showed their desire to share information and express themselves about their interests and hobbies, as much as their fema le counterparts in this study. As addressed above, this can be caused by the ex clusive feature of SNS: connecting users based on information provided by themselves. This feat ure triggers men to talk about themselves, rather than merely seek for information as st ereotyped previously, making the gender differences even diminished.
65 Therefore, although females and males are st ill pictured as two unique groups with exclusive characteristic s, both men and women are updating thei r attitudes towards the Internet and their behaviors while using it for communica tion. Gender differences of online activities, as reported in earlier study (Weiser, 2003), began to diminish rapidly. Extensions in Cultural Differences Regarding the cultural-specific findings, a lthough this study are not completely in consistency with traditional cultur al dimensions due to the feature of the Chinese natives in this study, the significant differences between Chinese students and U.S. students in their SNS usage still indicates that cultural background affect s how and why individual s use certain media. Understanding cultural background is important in making sense of individuals behaviors and motivations, especially in cross-cultural contexts Those Internet software developers who want to attract international users need to take cultural background into consideration. However, cultural dimensions should also be applied wi th care when time, circumstance and environment changes. This study also poses a question about national culture and Internet im pact. In this study, Chinese students in the U.S. are found to be mo re individualistic than expected, which can be explained by the fact that they are in the U.S., but it also can be related to the fact that these people may be heavy users of Internet or SNS. Being online may influe nce peoples values and characteristics, and it is possi ble that heavy Internet or SNS users in China are also more individualistic than expected. Th is study brings us the question that whether being online makes people less culturally traditional, since the Internet represents a world that is more globalized than ever. After doing this study, I learned that: (1 ) while conducting studies, sometimes the findings may be different from the expecta tions, however, studying and thinking about the
66 changes may also produce new interests and efforts and (2) the effects of the survey is not perfect. Next time I should recruit a larger sample for the survey, and also should also recruit Chinese students in China for better study.
67 APPENDIX QUESTIONNAIRE
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76 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Dan Li was born in 1984, in Jiangsu, China. She graduated from Jinling High School in Nanjing in 2002. She earned her B.A. in Englis h literature from Beijing Language and Culture University, in 2006.