Identity construction online: a study of the Chinese social networking site Renren
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Social networking sites (SNS) are online platforms that enable individuals new opportunities for the management of personal relationships and the construction of their Self online. Cultural identity can exert an influence on self-presentation and communicative behaviors within SNSs. The current study investigates identity construction processes on the Chinese SNS Renren. Based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, the study examines whether the features of the Chinese culture affect the users’ self-presentation. The paper is based on a qualitative and ethnographical investigation of 28 Renren users, between the ages of 18 and 25, living in large cities in China. My findings indicate that the identities produced in this online environment are sensitive to the national culture. The research study reveals the paradigm of a complex, plural and changing Self, deeply influenced by the traditional values of the Chinese culture but also conditioned by Western ideologies and lifestyles, as a result of the recent modernization of the country. These elements lead to a renegotiation of the traditional values, paving the way to a new conception of the Chinese Self.
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