MICHIGAN STATE (US) — “Me-first” culture in the US and a “collective-good” mentality in China show up in how each country uses social networking sites, according to a new study.
Linda Jackson, professor of psychology at Michigan State University, says Chinese citizens tend to be more interested in real-world relationships than online friendships and less inclined toward the self-promotion that’s popular on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
“In the United States, it’s all about promoting yourself and taking credit for positive outcomes and denying blame for negative outcomes,” Jackson says. “In China, it’s the opposite. If something bad happens, you take the blame and talk about how you can improve. If something good happens, the credit is shared for the good of the group.”
Jackson and Jin-Liang Wang, a researcher at China’s Southwest University, asked more than 400 college-aged residents from each country about their use of social network sites. The results are published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
The study finds that US participants spent nearly twice as long on social networking sites (nearly 52 minutes a day) compared with Chinese participants (about 28 minutes a day). Further, nearly a fifth (19 percent) of Chinese participants said they almost never use social networking sites, compared to just 4 percent in the United States.
Jackson says the Chinese parenting style likely plays a role in the disparity. Chinese parents emphasize effort as a means to achievement and success, she says, and using social networking sites is not consistent with this focus as it takes away from schoolwork. “Thus, Chinese parents may discourage or even forbid their children from using social networking sites,” Jackson says.
Chinese children also are less likely than US children to have multiple computers in the home. Because of the communal nature of Chinese culture, many homes have just one computer, located in a shared space.
But Jackson doesn’t see it as an issue with access. “If Chinese students really wanted to go online more, they easily could, whether it’s at home or at school. It’s more of a motivation factor,” she says.
“It becomes a question of what’s important in life. In China, it’s more important to sit down for a family dinner or concentrate on your homework or help your parents clean the house.”
Ultimately, Jackson says she’s concerned about the potential negative effects of spending an increasing amount of time online.
“Because we are essentially social creatures, I cannot see good coming out of social isolation and practices that encourage aloneness and solitary activities,” she says. “And a lot of technology does this.”