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The Culture Code of Social Media


During our pictorial presentations in class, I was struck by how much emphasis our class placed on social media as a key component to globalization. As members of Generation Y, we are pioneering this communication channel each day, a channel that is allowing people across the world to communicate and connect like never before. Please view the below video, which highlights specifics as to the impact social media is having:

One of the most important pieces of this video in terms of globalization in my mind is the statement “Word of Mouth is on digital steroids.” The best example many of us can think of today is the impact social media has had on the “Arab Spring,” the beginning of revolutions in many Middle Eastern countries such as Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. “Although they shared a common call for personal dignity and responsive government, the revolutions across these three countries reflected divergent economic grievances and social dynamics” per ForeignAffairs.com. The people experiencing these revolutions could not turn to their media for trustworthy information, and so they turned to each other instead. They reached out as “citizen journalists,” like Alex mentioned in her posts, and informed each other about the dangers, the strengths, and the possibilities they faced. Just think, how much of your news do you take in from social media?

I’d like to propose that social media has different meaning across cultures, as we found there are often different “codes” across cultures for the same expression, experience, or item. I’d like to think about Clotaire Rapaille’s The Culture Code and propose that the culture code for social media in the U.S. would be something like “IDEA,” whereas the culture code for social media in the Middle East may be more like “FREEDOM.” Do you agree with these proposed culture codes for social media? If not, what do you think is more reflective?

Stay tuned for my next post, describing one of the most influential Twitter users in the Middle East. You can start following him now @SultanAlQassemi.



  1. drcookejackson says:

    Jackie, I like your words used to embody the culture code of the different regions. I completely agree – this book was fascinating and has given me much to ruminate on. Instinctively when I read your question I thought of the words THE FIGHT which represents social media in the Middle East and UNFETTERED for the U. S. which denotes being “released from restraint or inhibition.” In the U. S. we definitely have major dynamics playing out in the economic, political and social scene which are greatly represented in our social media but that said…we have a system that works and offers voice to everyone. So… I spend much of my time on social media (i.e., Facebook, twitter, pinterest, etc…) doing what is fascinating to me! It feels UNFETTERED. I don’t feel this is the case for those using social media in Egypt…Tunisia. ‘Their’ post on twitter seem so focused on a cause, a purpose..”THE FIGHT.”

    I think of what Boon said in class about the political debate, “depending of what channel you listen to you will hear views from different sides.” We, in the U. S. have the liberty to embrace the side that most suits our political views. This has not been the case for regions who are in THE FIGHT.

    • sonigreca says:

      Jackie and Dr.CJ, I also like how Jackie related to the culture code. It reminds me that when I was reading the culture code I tried to find a word that fit the Chinese culture code for using the social media. Now I’m reading Jackie’s post. I think our culture code for social media is the combination of IDEA and FREEDOM. As you all know that we don’t have access to Facebook and Twitter. However, we have our Renren ( like the facebook) and Weibo (like twitter). You may not see me on Facebook or Twitter so often, but I’m on Weibo 24/7. The Chinese people are using those social media everyday like the Americans. We have our IDEA on our social media. On the other hand, social media, especially Weibo, in China has provided the Chinese people a platform to see some facts of social events that cannot be seen from traditional media. It’s impossible for us to have something big to trigger revolutions like the Middle Eastern countries because of the government’s control. But people are more free to talk on social media than they’re used to be.

  2. Laura Chechette says:

    Although I like IDEA as a culture code for social media in the US, I think that the SHARING is more appropriate. Yes there are tons of ideas born on Facebook everyday, but it is more common to see someone else’s idea being repeatedly shared, liked, or commented on.

    Even though multiple leaders throughout the Middle East have been replaced recently I’m curious if the people within those countries consider themselves free. I think that an appropriate code for social media in the middle east is OPPORTUNITY. I think that when everyone comes together to support a cause it can make a difference in a community as was demonstrated in the Middle East uprisings. People have to take advantage of those opportunities though.

    P.S. Loved the video!

    • lisamedina says:

      Jacki – love that you put the Socialnomics video on your post! I think it really illustrates the volume of impact social media has. I agree with Laura I feel like the Culture Code for social media in the US is more about “sharing” than an “idea”. From my experience with social media it can be a dynamic sharing tool, whether you are sharing your opinion, moments of your everyday life, or the latest news. I feel with the Middle East the culture code for social media is more about “democratization”. As seen with the Arab Spring it is was used as a tool to shift the balance of power from the nation to individuals.

  3. KSA ROCKS! says:

    Hey Jackie and bloggers ^_^,

    I think that Globalization and the growth of social media are developing together and enhancing each other at an astounding rate, as evidenced by the “Socialnomics” video on YouTube. I agree that the culture code for social media in the U.S. is something like “IDEA,” but rather than expressing new ideas or innovations, social media users in the U.S. use it to find those with similar thoughts to reinforce already held beliefs. This can have negative consequences, as some people may isolate themselves within the boundaries of stubbornly held beliefs.

    In other places, such as some countries in the Middle East or China, access to social media sites may be prohibited by government restrictions and Internet providers. In these places, people are pt at working around restrictions by spoofing DNS servers so they can still access prohibited sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. This indeed supports the idea that the cultural code for social media in these places is “FREEDOMade,” as it allows them to see beyond the highly censored local sources for news and provide their own stories for others to know the truth of what is going on in their neighborhoods and cities.

  4. Ji Li says:

    Thank you Jackie for sharing this significant video clip with all of us. The first thing I was impressed by this video was the sentence “Yet, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Google are not welcome in China.” That’s partly true because Chinese government intends to block some information from those social media channels which may have negative impact on our “harmonious society”. But they are just not welcome by Chinese government, not by Chinese people. As Sonya said, we have our local Twitter, Facebook and Youtube, which are all very popular among Chinese people, especially among young generation. BTW, we still use google a lot in our daily life.

    I agree with your proposed code IDEA for social media, and I would like to add the word CONNECTION or SHARING to the code. As numerous ideas are expressed by people from all over the world everyday on social media, without connecting, sharing and discussing with each other, those ideas still don’t have a chance to make a difference. Thus, to me, the main benefit that social media brings to our life is to make all people connected.

  5. grabernieto says:

    I liked this post, because one thing we haven’t profoundly discussed is the impact that social media has in bridging global communities. As seen in the video social media is changing how we interact socially and this change is not only seen here in the U.S. but all across the world. In Ecuador, people more and more are using Twitter and Facebook to interact with each other, originally these sites were more of a status symbol, since if you had one of these sites you belonged to higher class, but now more and more is becoming a way to communicate and local companies are taking notice. Another good use of social media is how its giving a voice to places heavily controled by politics. The Arab Spring is one of the best examples of the infuences of social media. People are taking more and more to their social accounts to inform, communicate and voice their concerns, opinions and any developments. Social media is a tool that with time will continue to evolve and influence how our society interacts and relates to each other.

    • Boon Han says:

      While I agree that social media has indeed caused a revolutionary change in the manner in which millions of people live their lives around the world, my personal opinion is that social media has been over-credited for the role it played in the Arab Spring.
      Allow me to explain. To me, the main impetus for the arab spring is the deep resent the people had for their respective regimes. Other important ingredients for the successful revolution would include the courage and determination of the people in pursuing a better future for themselves as well as their children. To me, social media is but a means of communication which accelerated the process and probably helped to ease certain kinks in communication during the process of revolution.
      I hypothesize that had social media been non-existent in those countries, the revolutions would probably have taken place anyway; albeit maybe months or even years later than they actually did. Using an analogy of a chemical reaction, we should see social media as a “catalyst” for the Arab Spring and not as a main “reactant”.

      • Kristina Coppola says:

        I think this is an interesting observation Boon Han. Social media certainly didn’t cause the social unrest, but rather provided the medium for people to share their frustrations/injustices, recognize that others felt the same way, coordinate efforts in their uprising. I also think that one of the biggest things that social media did was bypass traditional blocks governments could put on news flow by denying access to reporters/censoring stories by creating a news “underground” that was respected by the international community as authentic and accurate. This kind of global attention and in some cases pressure from the international community made a difference in the way governments responded as well as allowing the international community to comment and validate those involved in the Arab Spring.

  6. zhoulinjolin says:

    Social Media is really a revolution. It is a storm. I remembered what the movie Social Network showed that Facebook got thousands of registered accounts in a very short time. People are crazy about Facebook because people are more interested in see what is happening to their friends instead of strangers. So friends staying in every corner of the world are connected by Facebook. When I go to see a film, I always check in via Facebook. My “friends” usually ask me what movie I am watching, or maybe one “friend” is in the same theater. Through Facebook, people find their friends who have be disconnected for a long time. Business also use Facebook to connect with its customers and is becoming much closer to its customers through back-and-forth conversation online. So I agree with Ji that CONNECTED is an important code for social media.

  7. I must admit, when I selected the words “FREEDOM” and “IDEA,” I wasn’t sure that they were the best fit. I did know that if I made a suggestion, it would inspire others to think about the Code they believed fit best. I am so impressed by the thoughts and reasoning that you have presented here. I think each of the suggested codes have value and were thoughtfully suggested. I especially thank those who described social media use in their own cultures and allowed us to have some greater insight.

    I wonder if the Culture Code for social media is something that Rapaille may soon be commissioned to determine. With Facebook’s recent announcement of its initial public offerings of stock, it is estimated Facebook will have 1 billion users in August and that advertising will only increase (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-ipo-billion-filing-sec-sell-stock/story?id=15483472#.Ty2DeZghzww).

  8. andreslmc says:

    Jacki–This is a great topic of discussion. I think that social media–in terms of a culture code–stands for empowerment. Social media has empowered us to sidestep traditional beliefs and practices. In our personal lives, social media has allowed us to create and maintain a certain narrative about our life with the people who are part of our social media circle. On the other hand, in our professional life, I think that it has empowered us to expand–as your video notes–relationships with other people in our professions. Finally, in a grander civic sense, I think that social media has empowered individuals to expose injustice acts and call for and create social change without having to rely on traditional sources of political power.

  9. Alex says:

    I have to say that I know very little about how social media is used or allowed in other countries aside from what I hear from my fellow classmates. I think that social media in the U.S. is certainly something along the lines of “idea.” Looking at this from a literal standpoint, people in the U.S. spend a lot of time sharing their ideas, both on social media and off – what they did that day, what movie they saw, or what they are cooking for dinner – things that, well, frankly don’t matter in the grand scheme of things in comparison to what Jacki zoned in on that is happpening in other parts of the world. Granted there are benefits to us sharing small snippets of information – developing personal relationships with people with similar interests, sharing information that can benefit each other day to day, and promoting new ideas, interests, or even businesses. I imagine that social media use in the U.S. also differs among people of different ages, socialeconomic statuses, and what part of the country they live in (city, rural, etc.), among other things. Overall, I definitely think that the way in which people use social media is reflective of what is going on in their lives, and this certainly relates to global affairs.

  10. tjglover23 says:

    I am glad that we are looking at this through the Culture Code. I think however that the word “idea” to describe social media is stagnant. Like the culture code said America and Americans are essentially adolescents with energy and associate health and life with motion. I don’t think when we do the act of tweeting or posting something we are doing it feeling like we are being motionless, but that we are apart of a movement or force that is ever going, growing and changing. I think that the American culture code is more along the lines of “digital force”. Because though when we add something to the motion that is social media, we are motionless and thinking for that moment to post something, the idea came from us doing, seeing or having something happen around us. When each social media site was created, I don’t think its creators were thinking about this is idea but that this is new, on the edge, and is going to change. They were thinking action. So it is the force of life placed into a digital format, that then takes on a new energy of it’s own. I can’t really speak on what it may mean to other cultures but that is what I think it means here.

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