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Social Media is Collectivist

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©Ixmati Communications, 2017. Unauthorized use or duplication of this material without permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mari D. González with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

By Mari D. González

Whenever I hear advice on the best use of social media to attract users, I go back to my introduction to cross-cultural communication graduate course.

In collectivist (Latin America, Arab countries, Southern Europe) as opposed to individualist (U.S., Northern Europe) cultural groups, social media is intuitive. People in collective cultures are group-oriented. Their self-identity is directly related to their group or groups of reference. They thrive by being sensitive to the group’s harmony. For members of collectivist societies, communication with one another is frequent and spontaneous. Because language is a reflection of culture, one might say that Spanish-speakers tend to be more social. Collectivist cultures as opposed to task-oriented or individualist cultures understand that in social media:

  • Broadcasting is not conversation.
  • Two-way communication is conversation.
  • People can tell who is not being genuine.
  • Unless you are a broadcaster, social media is about the quality not the quantity.
  • Conversations require three steps – listening, processing information, and responding.
  • Conversations and meaningful engagement are time consuming.
  • Time is not necessarily money and relationships take you further than money.

As an interculturalist or intercultural communications professional, my focus is on what happens when people from two different cultural groups or different enculturation, i.e., staff at U.S. companies, whose values are dominant, and Latinos communicate, assuming they are using the same language–English and/or Spanish. In essence, my interest is in studying how the speaker’s message is received and interpreted by the listener according to contextual meanings that are intrinsic to her or his early socialization.

Edited by Connie Cobb

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