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A Cross-cultural Comparison of Privacy and Communication on Social Networking Sites

Info: 2584 words (10 pages) Example Dissertation Proposal
Published: 26th Jan 2022

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Tagged: Cultural StudiesSocial Media

I propose to conduct a research on the topic- ‘A cross-cultural comparison of privacy and communication on Social Networking Sites between India and United Kingdom’.


My research will try to examine the cross cultural differences in the context of sharing personal information on ‘Social Networking Sites’ (SNSs) and the various aspects of online privacy between the college students in India and the United Kingdom. To begin with, the research will require the students to complete a paper based survey with a variety of questions regarding their attitudes towards sharing personal information on social networks and privacy. It will also seek to better understand the behavioural issues by studying their communication pattern. The emphasis of this research will remain on identifying the commonalities and differences in the communication patterns and attitudes towards privacy between the Indian and UK students by conducting an empirical research.

Literature Framework

We define social network sites as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.

While we use the term “social network site” to describe this phenomenon, the term “social networking sites” also appears in public discourse, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. We chose not to employ the term “networking” for two reasons: emphasis and scope. “Networking” emphasizes relationship initiation, often between strangers. While networking is possible on these sites, it is not the primary practice on many of them, nor is it what differentiates them from other forms of computer-mediated communication (CMC).

What makes social network sites unique is not that they allow individuals to meet strangers, but rather that they enable users to articulate and make visible their social networks. This can result in connections between individuals that would not otherwise be made, but that is often not the goal, and these meetings are frequently between “latent ties” (Haythornthwaite, 2005) who share some offline connection. On many of the large SNSs, participants are not necessarily “networking” or looking to meet new people; instead, they are primarily communicating with people who are already a part of their extended social network. To emphasize this articulated social network as a critical organizing feature of these sites, we label them “social network sites.”

Social Networking Sites (SNS) have achieved phenomenal success since the launch of sixdegrees.com in 1997. Original sites such as Friendster, Lunarstorm and MiGente, are now all dwarfed by the phenomenally successful Myspace1, and Facebook2. A useful historical record of the development of Social Networking sites was made by Boyd and Ellison in 20073, although more work is needed to understand the gratifications delivered how users derive a sense of identity and the cross cultural implications to users. The goal of this short paper is to weave digitization, identity and community into an analysis that is both historically rigorous and conscious of contemporary innovations.

Launch Dates of Major Social Networking Sites (SNSs)

Source: Social Media Graphics

Among undergraduate college students, the three most visited social networking websites are Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster, with one study reporting Facebook use as the most popular at 90% (Stutzman, 2006) while another study reports Facebook use as most popular with 78.8% who ‘‘sometimes’ or ‘‘often’ use Facebook (Hargittai, 2007). Undergraduate students using Facebook averaged 10–30 min daily use for the time categories and averaged 150–200 friends for the friend categories (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2006). Students and alumni use Facebook to communicate, connect and remain in contact with others (Acquisti & Gross, 2006; Charnigo & Barnett-Ellis, 2007; Ellison et al., 2006). There are conflicting reports whether Facebook is used for dating with one study that reports such use (Charnigo & Barnett-Ellis, 2007), while another study reports that students do not use Facebook for that purpose (Acquisti & Gross, 2006). Also, undergraduate students typically use Facebook for fun and ‘‘killing time’ rather than gathering information (Ellison et al., 2006). Although Facebook is very popular among students, others have profiles on it too.

Over the past decade, the communication uses of the Internet have become a very important part of young people’s lives (e.g., Gemmill & Peterson, 2006; Jones, 2002; Lenhart & Madden, 2007; Subrahmanyam & Greenfield, 2008). Social networking sites are the latest online communication tool that allows users to create a public or semi-public profile, create and view their own as well as other users’ online social networks (Boyd & Ellison, 2007a), and interact with people in their networks. Sites such as MySpace and Facebook have over 100 million users between them, many of them adolescents and emerging adults. Although research on young people’s use of social networking sites is emerging (e.g., Boyd & Ellison, 2007b; Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006), questions remain regarding exactly what young people do on these sites, whom they interact with on them, and how their social networking site use relates to their other online (such as instant messaging) and offline activities. Furthermore, because of the potential to interact with known others as well as meet and befriend strangers on these sites, it is important to study the nature of their online social networks in order to get an understanding of how such online communication relates to young people’s development. The goals of the present study were to explore emerging adults’ use of social networking sites for communication and examine the relation between their online and offline social networks.

Given the vast array of information that can be shared and the number of users, concerns regarding security and privacy issues are a recurring issue (Acoca, 2008). Some concerns involve potential threats to personal safety from the abundance of information that is assumed to be available and accessible about an individual on their online profile. Specifically, there are concerns regarding identity theft if users provide too much information (e.g., birth date, address, phone, full name etc.). In addition, there are concerns for personal safety for vulnerable users who could be stalked, or otherwise threatened. A less commonly considered threat is the possibility of social risk as a function of self-identification with minority or stigmatized groups. Although some of these concerns have surfaced in the popular media (e.g., news.cnet.com), there is little empirical investigation documenting how much and what kind of information is present in personal FACEBOOKâ„¢ profiles to determine the potential for threats of any type, nor is there any information regarding how users differ in the information disclosed in their profiles to provide clues as to who is most likely to be at risk.

India is ranked fourth in the world in terms of the Internet users. It had a total population of 1,147,995,898 people by the year 2008, out of which 81,000,000 people were using the Internet which makes 7.1% of the total population of Internet users (Internet World Stats, 2009). Social networking is catching on fast. About 56 percent users do both social and professional networking on the Web, while 29 percent do only social networking (Madhavan, 2007). There are about 10 million people who are on social networking sites. What started with the popularity of Orkut in India has now become a cultural revolution. Even most of the schools going teens have an account on some social networking site (Java, 2007). Out of the total social networking users in India, only 1 mn to 2 mn (only 10% to 20%) are on Indian social networking sites. According to a recent report by comScore, Inc. (Mishra, 2009), visits to the social networking sites have increased by 51 percent from the last year. The study also found that global social networking brands continued to gain prominence in India during the last year, with Orkut, Facebook, hi5, LinkedIn and MySpace each witnessing significant increases in visitation. Orkut reigned as the most visited social networking site in December 2008 with more than 12.8 million visitors, an increase of 81 percent from the previous year. Facebook, the second most popular social networking site, had 4 million visitors, up by 150 percent since last year. To make its position strong in the Indian social networking market, Facebook has launched an Indian interface which helps local users to connect with their friends in 6 different languages e Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu and Bengali. This move allows users to choose any of the six languages and use it as per their convenience by selecting the language tab. MySpace also promotes a lot of India specific content like promoting musical talent and even taking their talent abroad thereby uplifting the Indian culture. It is followed by local social networking site Bharatstudent.com with 3.3 million visitors (up 88 percent) and hi5.com with 2 million visitors (up 182 percent). Other popular networking sites in India featured in the list in descending order are ibibo, MySpace, LinkedIn, BigAdda and Fropper.

Top Social Networking Sites in India by Unique Visitors December 2008 vs. December 2007 Total India e Age 15+, Home/Work Locations (excluding visits from cyber cafes, mobile phones and PDAs)

Source: comScore World Metrix

Users & Demography for the United Kingdom

Source: Socialbakers (2010)

User age distribution on Facebook in United Kingdom

Source: Socialbakers (2010)

Male/Female User Ratio on Facebook in United Kingdom

Source: Socialbakers (2010)

Age Growth on Facebook in United Kingdom

Source: Socialbakers (2010)

Top 10 Countries on Facebook

Source: Socialbakers (2010)

Research Strategy

The process will be initiated by the collection of social network data through a survey of Indian and UK college students. The population sample chosen for this research purpose will be a specific number of college going students in India and UK (to be decided at a later time).

The sample will be restricted to a few hundred students from each country so as to make it easier to do a survey research. The student will be encouraged to participate and share their views on the subject of content sharing and privacy. The information provided by them will solely be used for the educational research purpose.

The survey employed in this study will be based on a popular survey used previously by ‘Pew Internet and American Life Project’ among American teenagers. The survey used in this research may differ in some ways to adjust the variations from previous similar researches.

A copy of the original survey questions is available to consult on the ‘Pew Internet and American Life Project’ website. The responses in the original survey were categorical, thus quantitative analysis will require performing chi-square (χ2) test.

Collection of data

The primary data for this research will be collected by conducting a survey based on numerous questions that will seek to answer the questions based on information sharing and the degree of privacy maintained by students in their social profiles. The type of information sought is presented in the next section in the form of tables. However the level of information has been limited and the original research is expected to be more comprehensive in nature and may include more variables and situations. Other secondary data presented in the research will be collected from various social networking sites, social networking research services, network usage statistics, sharing and privacy reports published by various organizations.

Research Methodology

The purpose of this research determines its methodology. It will be a comparative study of Indian and UK college students’ attitudes and behaviour towards communication patterns and controlling privacy on Social Networking Sites (SNSs).

Research Questions

How do the students in India and UK differ in reference to privacy on Social Networking Sites?

How do the students in India and UK differ in reference to communication patterns on Social Networking Sites?

The college students in India and UK will be contacted through friend lists of my own friends on prominent SNSs. I will encourage my friends to persuade their friends on SNSs. Later on I will segregate the lists of Indian and UK college students for the purpose of comparison. I am expecting a response rate of nearly 60-70 percent. The results will be formatted according to the following tables.

Table 1. Public Nature of Social Network Site Profile

Degree to which your online social profile is public


N= X

United Kingdom

N= Y

Visible to everyone

Visible to friends of friends

Visible only to friends

Table 2: Attitude towards sharing personal information on SNSs

Is it alright to share the following information on social sites?


United Kingdom





State in which you live

City in which you live

College name

IM Screen Names

Birth date

Family members names

Relationship (s)

Email address (es)

Links to other personal blogs or websites

Mobile Number

Table 3: Types of information shared on SNSs

Would you share the following detail on your social profile?


United Kingdom






Photos of yourself

Photos of your friends

Photos of family members

City name

High School name

Email addresses

MP3 files

Video content

Events list


Table 4: Response to contacting by strangers

How would you normally respond to a stranger’s friend request?


United Kingdom

Completely ignore

Respond positively

Decline the request

Block the user

Block and report the user to avoid further contact

Table 5: Communication patterns on SNSs

Do you usually do the following?


United Kingdom





Post messages on friends’ wall or comment on their posts

Send private messages to someone on your friend list

Send private messages to someone not on your friend list

Poke your friends

Poke your friend’s friends

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