Most prominent social network companies such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others are based in the United States. As a result, their core staff and a large portion of their audience are invested heavily in American culture, leading to the emergence of the idea that the firms are exporting it worldwide. The phenomenon has been well documented with a variety of other U.S.-based companies such as McDonald’s or Coca-Cola, which are considered symbols of America and succeed worldwide. However, the phenomenon of social media also enables a reverse flow of information and culture. This essay is written to show that social media enables intercultural exchanges that enrich both groups instead of creating a one-way flow.
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Social Media and Intercultural Adaptation
The United States is known as a country where many people want to emigrate, mostly to live a better life. However, with its stringent immigration policies and high cost of living, not many succeed. Furthermore, immigrants are affected by culture shock, much as they would be when moving to any new and unfamiliar nation. All of these factors contribute to them failing to stay in the country and become citizens as they would like. However, if they manage to remain, they introduce their home culture to the United States even as they acculturate and become familiar with local traditions. Social media may be a valuable tool that allows immigrants to establish local connections and handle adaptation to local norms better.
Generally, social connections are vital to a person’s adaptation to a new environment and their ability to become self-sustaining. In the past, they would mostly be established via face-to-face communication, as there were few other options for meeting new people. However, as Ju, Jia, and Shoham (2016) note, social media has become another option for meeting new people and creating relationships. The cause is likely the abundance of information about a person that one can learn by inspecting and following their account. Social media removes the need to communicate with a person over an extended period to learn his or her preferences and interests, making it easier to find like-minded individuals. As a result, it becomes easier for immigrants to create a circle of friends and adjust to the new environment. In turn, their new social circles are exposed to different cultures, which has an impact on their values.
Internal Network Exposure
Many immigrants respond to the pressures of the new culture by forming close groups with other people from the same country. In doing so, they obtain support from people who understand their issues and create a somewhat familiar environment. The practice can create comfort for people who are feeling pressured by their new circumstances and help them overcome difficulties. Furthermore, according to Eckstein and Peri (2018), sufficiently large immigrant communities can create cultural links between their original country and their new residence. They can foster further migration between the two nations and establish a flow of goods, creating a cultural exchange. The ability of social media to make it easier for people to find each other may contribute to this phenomenon.
Traditionally, migrant communities would be isolated, with geographic location acting as the primary determinant. Groups located in different cities would only have occasional contact if the social circles of people there intersected. However, with the advent of social media, it is easy for migrants in different locations to find each other and establish direct connections. As a result, their communities link together and become considerably more active than they would generally be. It becomes possible for them to organize cultural events and accommodate new arrivals more efficiently by referring them to the nearest group. As a result, smaller communities can become prominent agents of cultural exchange by joining with other like-minded individuals throughout the nation.
Cultural Phenomena Sharing
While the previous two sections discuss the possibility of immigrants introducing new topics into American cultural discourse, the ability to connect different people across the world is among the most prominent strengths of social media. It is now possible to create large-scale worldwide advertisement campaigns without investing nearly as much as would be necessary before the advent of the Internet. However, doing so requires that the marketers have considerable skill in social media manipulation or get lucky. As such, social media is a valuable marketing asset, but it cannot replace traditional advertising. However, it offers considerable opportunities for cultural phenomena, which do not have marketing budgets or goals and can be started by anyone, to spread.
In every nation, there will be people who are disinterested in their home culture but show interest in events that happen in other nations. Jin (2018) discusses the phenomenon of Korean popular culture, characterized by their music, known as K-pop, television shows, and digital games. K-pop, in particular, features flashy imagery, numerous attractive young artists, and songs in Korean, which most Western fans do not speak, distinguishing it from American songs, many of which focus on the lyrics. As a result of social media enabling the viewing of Korean culture worldwide, people in the West have discovered that they like the style, leading them to show further interest in Eastern culture. The song “Gangnam Style” by PSY is an example, becoming the most-watched video on YouTube for a considerable time.
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Social media is essential to such culture shifts, as its user-oriented nature permits anyone to submit anything as long as it is legal content. There are too few Korean culture fans for traditional media to declare an interest in it, as the engagement would be too low. However, sites such as YouTube allow anyone to follow their interests and offer material that appeals to most tastes. Their algorithms are designed to assist the user in the search, and so someone who may have an interest in other cultures’ practices may find himself or herself viewing them. As a result, they will then show an interest and spread the information to their friends with similar hobbies, creating cross-cultural engagement.
Social media is central to the phenomenon of cultural exchange between the U.S. and other countries. It helps immigrants form social connections and adapt to their new circumstances, letting them spread their values. It also helps the same-culture communities that naturally form among migrants connect and organize large-scale initiatives. Lastly, the ability of people to access art throughout the world lets them engage with other cultures regardless of their location or popularity. As a result, while the influence of other countries on the United States is harder to discern than the flow of culture in the other direction, it exists, and social media is a large part of the trend.
Eckstein, S., & Peri, G. (2018). Immigrant niches and immigrant networks in the US labor market. The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, 4(1), 1-17.
Jin, D.Y. (2018). An analysis of the Korean wave as transnational popular culture: North American youth engage through social media as TV becomes obsolete. International Journal of Communication, 12, 404-422.
Ju, R., Jia, M., & Shoham, M. (2016). Online social connection: Exploring international students’ use of new media in their adaptation process. China Media Research, 12(2), 76-89.