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Social Media is Collectivist

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

Being Latino on Facebook

An Interview with Lance Rios

By Mari D. González

In preparation for my independent study research proposal on Social Media and cultural indicators, I interviewed Lance Rios, creator and administrator of Facebook’s Being Latino.

I became fascinated by Lance’s ability to attract a wealth of followers –“31,576 People Like This” as of today, to keep them engaged, and to maintain consistent and personalized contact with them. All of his posts are culturally relevant and promote individual opinions and collective discussion. Thirteen percent or 18 out of my 138 Facebook friends joined Being Latino after I suggested it.

How Does He Manage It?

Lance is a young English-speaking and bicultural blogger and social media addict –as he describes himself. He is of Puerto Rican descent and both his Latino cultural background and American values are alive and communicated throughout his posts.

He resonates with acculturated English-speaking Latinos across the board –Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Central American and South American. His posts range from informational and serious activism to entertaining on American popular culture, national news from Latin America, politics, statistics, biographies and other socio-cultural topics.

When I asked him about the role of Being Latino, he humbly replied, “It is something I created [which has] attracted a lot of people via word of mouth and it is bigger than I anticipated.”

Being Latino vs. Lance Rios

Lance recognizes that it is more effective to tone down individual views and reserve those for his personal page, “I’m more balanced, neutral, and less biased on Being Latino. I wanted to separate [myself from it]. It is not about me.”

Concurrently, he wants people to know that although Being Latino is an “open platform” he is behind the page by personally approaching people “who had their own agenda.”

Cultural Relevance – What Makes Being Latino, Latino

Being Latino has filled a huge gap in mass media communications with a conventional social media platform. There isn’t media that communicates to bicultural and acculturated Latinos. “Most media outlets use Spanish language” which doesn’t echo with American-born Latinos. Being Latino caters to “second- and third-generation Latinos” not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, South Africa and Latin America.

American-born Latinos have been raised in an English-speaking world surrounded by American media which unfortunately neither represents nor includes them. They are the majority, as compared to foreign-born, and prefer speaking English; yet, they also choose to unassimilate by continually sharing and communicating certain cultural values on- and off-line.

Lance recognizes that “[his] audience is more comfortable with Spanglish and English,” which speaks of their upbringing. Culturally relevant elements are communicated in the language that is more fitting. Spanglish is used for what cannot be translated without losing connotation, “I never spoke [Spanish] growing up; everything was in English, [except] certain words with meanings that cannot be transferred, [such as] words used in normal conversations [and] those words are identifiers and connectors.”

I do not consider myself another social media addict, however I am becoming addicted to Being Latino.

Why Facebook?

[To be continued].