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Student Help © 2020

This introduction is a sample and not to be used for academic purposes.

THE EFFECT OF USING SOCIAL MEDIA AND ITS GLOBAL

CONNECTION ON THE CULTURAL IDENTITY OF STUDENTS

CHAPTER 1 – INTRODUCTION

The advent of social media in the beginning of this century, its fast and vast

proliferation and above all its avid consumption among the world youth is unprecedent

in the history of global communication following the introduction of cable televisions.

Bringing far global corners closer to each other, social media has heralded

globalization, prompting clash of local and global cultural values which are truly

associated with westernized liberal democratic values or American values (Fung,

2007, p. 265-266) and yet have adopted localized resonances, making people

becoming conscious of their socio cultural identities with a proclivity to localism (p.

266). This proclivity to localism has initially caused a stir in the national identity to

emerge with slight ramifications on it of the cultural invasion through social media.

Although, it has been a hot debate for the communication specialists, the recent color

revolutions in Tunisia, its impacts (Walt, 2011) and its renaming in other Arab

countries have far-reaching consequences for Saudi Arabia.

The reason behind these revolution was fast networking, which has resulted in

a reformulation of human communication, relationships and reassessments of how

individuals see themselves in the wider society. The digital revolution, as it is

sometimes referred to, is associated with profound changes in human life, especially,
that which involves human interaction. This digital revolution is enabling the concept

of a cosmic village that Marshall McLuhan referred to (MacDonald, 2006) to come to

fruition. However, the advancements in digital communication is not without its

downsides. The developments in the field of information and communication

technology have created fears and raised a lot of controversy among health experts

about the psychological, social, and cultural repercussions resulting from this

technology use.

In fact, these impacts ranging from psychiatric disorders to physical health

issues though more prominent are depression, “anxiety and low self-esteem” (Pantic,

2014, p. 653). As it has prompted interconnection between the people, it has also

impacted human connection, sleep and memory (Barr, 2019) negatively, causing

various psychological issues that show their signs in a cultural setup. The cultural

interconnection takes place within these virtual boundaries very fast, making people

share common views and transfer then to their communities they are connected with

very fast that help them shape their cultural identity despite distinct personal character

(Aljuboori, Fashakh and Bayat, 2020, p. 140). This appears in the transformation of

identity in various ways after the young generation perceives its identity in different

virtual perspectives. These impacts emerge not only emerge in social but also in

cultural behavior; the first in the nationalism and the second in the stress upon

localized identity (Fung, p. 266). One is the negative impact of the cultural

globalization created by our increasing digital interconnectedness on the cultural

identity of individuals and groups.


In terms of identity, as it is apparent that in this social media onslaught brought

globalization and localization in clash with each other, creating depressingly negative

impacts, it must have impacts on the identity of people as well as individuals. As far as

people are concerned, Steven Warburton has presented mind blowing statistics about

his googling of “digital identity” in the Foreword of his book, Digital Identity and

Social Media, saying that now people have multiple identities in the cyberspace that

would have been unlikely in traditional educational setup (2012, p. xiv). He reasoned

that it is because of the reach and frequency of the cultural strands has changed,

forcing multiple groups, classes, families and clubs to “adopt different persona” in

different cyber milieu (2012, p. xiv). Almost the same goes for the individual identity

which, too, is part of the digital identity having complexity in the changing cyberspace

milieu (Chatfield, 2012, p. 139) which needs deep study of the social cultural

constructs of the social media times (Pauwels, 2012, p. 133) and it has worked more in

the creation of images, self images and idealized identities instead of creating through

“advertising identities” (p. 138), which is a manifestation of individual identity that is

actually “relation formation,” for they are malleable, adaptational, and the perpetual

subject and objection of negotiation within each context” (Code, 2012, p. 40). This

distinction between group identity and individual identity becomes distinctive in the

discreet research survey conducted at micro level.

It also is now a fact that social media has become the most popular means of

modern communication. It lays a rich cornucopia of knowledge at the fingertips of its

users, for it provides myriad of avenues for information sharing tools to the users.

With the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, My Space,
Instagram, LinkedIn, which allow the exchange of video clips, pictures, file sharing,

instant chatting, users have more freedom to interact directly with one another in ways

never imagined prior to their arrival even in the world of the Internet. This capability

has increased the popularity and use of these networks. Take the example of

Facebook. The number of users has multiplied very fast. As of 10th of August, their

number stands at 2.7 billion (Clement, 2020). Being one of the leading social media

platforms, Facebook seems to be becoming a necessity in individual’s lives. Although

Facebook may bring a sense of connectedness and belonging to the users, it may be

doing so at a great cost – that of diminishing the importance of and hindering the

adoption of characteristics among young adults deemed important within many

cultures.

These studies show that the internet and its associated technology enable cross-

cultural communication, this multicultural aspect has the potential to alter cultures and

those within cultural groups. With the widespread use of social media, a new type of

human community has emerged, referred to as virtual communities. Some of these

communities are multicultural in nature, meaning they are composed of individuals

from different cultures. In some cases, this has resulted in the reshaping of cultural

boundaries, which has led to the dilution of cultural identity by exposing members to

and encouraging the adoption of values and behaviors outside their own culture and

weakening their sense of local and national belonging. This phenomenon appears to be

particularly evident within the nation of Saudi Arabia. It appears Facebook use, in

particular, is exerting undue influence on thoughts, language, behaviors, and values,

which represent the Arab cultural identity among young Saudis. And it is more so, for
the Arab societies, specifically, Saudi Arabia, are very closed ones, leaving little room

for opposite opinions in the political, theological and social realms. In such a

controlled society, social media has proved a boon, becoming a tool for self-

expression and subsequently identity formation. The recent statistics of Digital Portal

by Simon Kemp shows that the number of social media users in Saudi Arabia has

topped 25 million out of total 37 plus million people and increase within one year is

8.7 percent which means that as of January 2020, this number of the users is 72

percent (Kemp, 2020). This number increasing number seems behind the recent

radically liberal moves of the government to open up the Saudi society such as driving

permission (Hubbard, 2017) and opening of cinemas (Kinnimont, 2028) on account of

the transformation in the old norms and resultant public demands. It is all because of

the social media impacts in the socio political realm, eroding the flow of information

and power over media of the Saudi government (Al Sahafi, 2019, p. 298).

In the midst of this milieu, it is important to present the Arab identity that is

traditionally very reserved, macho patriarchal and deeply conventional that is not only

indigenous but also deeply rooted in the psyche of the people so much so that the even

as of now Andrew Hammond argues these Bedouin tribes swear allegiance to the

“Saudi family’s rule” (Hammond, 2007, p. 114, 138, 321) in the era of social media

democratization.

In such a stifling atmosphere, it is natural that social media, with its openness,

freedom of expression navigation, it has proved a virtual heaven for the young people

in the cyberspace. They can freely express themselves using virtual identities that do

not reflect their real culture, which means that they want to break certain barriers or
bans imposed by the government as Al Sahafi has pointed out in her doctoral

dissertation (289). Therefore, this situation has become a source of concern among

religious and other community leaders in regard to the negative impact social media is

having on the on the cultural identity of young people, in particular their values,

behaviors and use of outside language (Alharthi, 2015) .

The Purpose And Significance Of The Study

In light of this brief argument, this pilot study undertakes the task of examining

social media usage, specifically that of Facebook, by young Saudi university students.

The goal is to use cultural identity theory and the theory of Uses and Gratification to

determine what effect Facebook is having on sense of cultural identity to determine

the need it fulfills in their lives and the satisfaction they derive from it. This group is

targeted because they are seen as the nation’s future, and they represent a major

portion of Saudi society. In addition, this group is considered the most reconfigurable

age group and the most willing to accept new ideas (Al-Saffag and Simmons, 2015),

which makes them more susceptible to being affected than any other segment of the

Saudi society (Alharthi, 2015). One of the characteristics of youth is rebellion against

the status quo and psychological instability to live under the stifling atmosphere

dubbed as “a subversive Internet culture” (Hammond, 2007, 121, 123).. While they are

one of the most dynamic and creative segments of Saudi society, this “youth culture,”

that the Internet has helped create, is referred as "counter culture” (Poepsel, 2018).

The reason is that it runs counter to traditional Saudi culture and continues to be

shaped by participation in online blogs, chat rooms, and other means of

communication including but not limited to social media platforms. Hammond’s


observation about this subversion (p. 121) and about culture and its traditional

patriarchy (p. 234) have rather shown the creeping impacts of the transformation

brought by social media. Therefore, this Arab cultural identity of non-democratic

values, patriarchal structure of the social fabric and deeply conventional fabric has

shown some cracks in the individual identity of the youth.

This Arab cultural identity is seen as a glue holding the Arab world together;

thus many, like in centuries past, view maintaining it in succeeding generations as

vital to continuance of Arab society. This Arab cultural identity has been formed and

established over the course of thousands of years. Throughout its history, Arab culture

has continued not only to survive but also to flourish during the times of conquest as

well as retreats. However, in the 21st century it may be facing the greatest threat in its

history – that of increasing globalization brought about by the Internet, specifically,

the social media interaction. Brought by this social media proliferation, this

intercultural exposure and discourse appear to be diminishing the relevance of Arab

culture among young adults. In increasing numbers, the young students are adopting

languages, values and behaviors of other cultures and abandoning the established

norms of Arab culture as exemplified earlier. Some other concrete examples are that

some users do not write in Arabic, but in other languages, and when looking at their

accounts, they are almost devoid of anything indicating their cultural, religious or

ethnic affiliations. The second example is of their interest in reconfiguring their own

persona (Pauwels, 2012, p. 133.)

As the students are using social media platforms, it falls in the social

implantation theory as propounded by Stuart Hall in Cultural Theory: An Anthology


about emergence of the power of culture and its implantation (2010, p. 76) in the midst

of the values planted by their parents (Halley, 1997) or in placed in their context

(Opler, 1964, p. 515) when internalizing cultural codes (Bourdieu, 1964, p. 599),

shaping their behavior and demonstrating their individualities or new identities.


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