Disscussion: Your thoughts on cultural imperialism?

Q: What do you think of cultural imperialism in terms of social media adoption? In the context of Singapore, some argue it is prevalent phenomenon where people tend to prefer Western-based social media (e.g.,Whatsapp, Snapchat, Instragram etc.) over local or Asian based social media (Wechat, Line or so). If you agree or don’t agree, what is your rationale? 

5 thoughts on “Disscussion: Your thoughts on cultural imperialism?

  1. I think the main purpose of social media is to promote stronger connectivity and interactions between people and ‘cultural imperialism’ was never one of its intentions. Rather, ‘cultural imperialism’ can be seen as a consequence of using social media. In many cases, Western and Asian-based social media platforms offer similar technology and functions, and I think the reason why users in Singapore have a preference for Western-based social media is largely due to their perception of the platform and demographic factors.

    As most Singaporeans belong to the English-speaking community, I feel that most people will naturally identify with the Western-based social media because there is no perceived difficulty in understanding how to use the platform. The use of English language promotes familiarity and easy navigation, giving users the motivation to use Western-based social media.

    In contrast, I think that most Singaporeans may have the perception that Asian-based social media is specifically catered to specific Asian markets. People may hold beliefs that Wechat (and Renren, tudou etc.) that was developed in China is catered to the Chinese market alone and will not be compatible with Singapore’s context. There is the perception that there is unfamiliarity and difficulty using a Chinese language app and these thoughts act as ‘barriers’ for usage. Therefore, there is little motivation for users to use it. Similarly, Line and Kakao talk may be perceived as specially catered for the North Asian market (Japan and Korea). Nonetheless, I think people in Singapore are becoming more acceptive of Asian-based social media now, just that the trend is less noticeable. The social media platforms are also trying to build an emotional connection with local users by tailoring their services to the local flavor, for example, Line has developed ‘Singapore Special’ stickers with local slangs to win the heart of its users in Singapore.

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  2. Evidently, the usage of various social media platforms is dependent on many factors, such as peer influence, ease of usage and the appeal of the platform to users etc. Undoubtedly, cultural imperialism might be one of the reasons to a seemingly higher usage of western-based social media, depending on an individual’s exposure to the western society or population. However, the usage of western-based social media can also be attributed to other factors including simpler steps for account set-up, appealing app-design and those mentioned above, as opposed to asian-based social media. Of course, the listed factors that affect the preference usage is non-exhaustive.

    For instance, person A had been exposed to the western culture since young, but has a circle of friends who mainly uses asian-based social media, he/she is more likely to turn to asian platforms to stay connected with his/her friends. In this case, cultural imperialism may not necessarily play an extensive role. Being influenced by the western culture, he/she might prefer the western platforms, but using them will not allow him to stay connected with his social group.

    Thus, the adoption of social media platforms is not solely affected by cultural imperialism. But rather, cultural imperialism can be said to be one of the attributes in choosing the type of platforms to use.

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  3. I agree with Charmain and Magdeline that the common social media preference for communication is not driven by cultural imperialism.

    My point of view will be because of 2 things:
    1. First-mover advantage argument whereby social media such as Whatsapp, Snapchat and those others were among the first to be introduced in our community. Therefore, many people are already subscribing to these platforms. So when the Asian-based social media comes in, and it seems to hold a similar function than what we and our larger circle of friends have already get used to, we do not see the need and the willingness to switch to other platform. it is not that we prefer the Western-based more than the Asian ones, it just so happen that the Western ones were first introduced and hence first adopted by a greater mass.

    2. Peer influence. As what Magdeline has said, peer influenced definitely play a huge factor. While in Singapore I often use Whatsapp and Telegram to communicate with one another, I still use Line and Path to communicate with my friends in Indonesia because those are the platforms that most Indonesian use. We tend to adjust to our surroundings and circle of friends to decide which platform is better to enhance and ease our communications. And the reasons for choosing one over another in Singapore or in anywhere else is often not driven by cultural imperialism.

    Therefore, I do not think cultural imperialism affect social media adoption.

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  4. I do not agree that cultural imperialism affect social media adoption because there are many other factors that influences it like the interface of the app, peer influence and the community that you are in.

    Firstly, the purpose of social media tools is to connect to people around the world. In our generation, most of us are mainly English educated and English is a universal language. Hence, when we want to communicate with our family and friends overseas, there is a higher tendency that we will choose a Western based social media (Eg. Whatsapp) over Asian based (Eg. Wechat). A large part of the community understand English more than Chinese, hence we will use a Western based social media.

    Secondly, I feel that the interface of an app plus peer influence may influence one’s decision on which social media to adopt. For example, there was a period of time I was using LINE actively when Telegram didn’t had stickers but when Telegram launched stickers and we could even create our own, many of my friends decided to just use Telegram instead of LINE.

    Lastly, I feel timing is also crucial. Humans are habitual creatures. Perhaps because Whatsapp was launched earlier than LINE, many people were already used to going to Whatsapp to communicate. For e.g., one would say: “I’ll whatsapp you”. It became a way of life so in order for the whole community to shift to another platform to communicate, I think it will need to have an strong enough pull factor.

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  5. Great discussions so far. In microscope, individual behaviour/adoption might be mostly driven by technological convenience or peer influence, as yet, Charmain Yong mentioned, emotional connection to the Singapore people can’t be ignored for social media service providers whether it is Asian-based or Western-based in order for them to penetrate and survive the severe competition.

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