The contemporary society is characterized by influx of various high-end technological devices. Products that offer convenience to people are developed and invented for the benefit of humankind. By the turn of the decade, web browsing or web surfing has been popular and has become the latest trend in gaining and acquiring information. One of the benefits of computers and internet is the inception of fast and convenient form of communication. People communicate to express their feelings and ideas. Communication is defined as the process of transmitting messages and information in an attempt to achieve understanding.
The whole process of communication requires various skills such as speaking, listening, analyzing, and evaluating the message. Communication has been a part of the human lifestyle since the early years and takes place communication in various places such as in school, community and in workplace environment. As such, communication is an integral part of the human lifestyle as almost all of human activities require communication. Communication indeed plays a vital role in the society in terms of achieving understanding, harmony, collaboration and cooperation among people (Bergeson, n. d. ).
The popularity of computers and internet has allowed various sites to emerge. Different sites that provide different services can be searched in the World Wide Web. One of which is the social networking sites (SNS). Social networking sites play a big role in communication utilizing the computer and the internet. Social networking sites are becoming so popular, especially to students. Almost every student has their personal accounts in various social networking sites in order to connect with their friends. Social networking sites affect the relationships of people as it allows convenient and constant communication with our peers.
Social networking sites are so vast and diverse, thus allowing people to meet friends locally and internationally. As such, international students make use of social networking sites to gain more friends back at home and in their present location. In this line, the paper aims to probe into the utilization and influence and of social networking among international students in terms of their acculturation and intercultural communication. This paper will examine how international students make use of social networking sites as a form adaptation to the culture of their host country.
Social Networking Sites (SNS) Social Networking entails forming of individuals into specific groups, like in the neighborhood and the cliques in school. However, social networking is also popular online. Unlike the school and the neighborhood which are consisted of only few individuals, the internet is populated with millions of people worldwide who are looking for other internet users to develop friendship and relationship, to acquire first-hand information or to find professional opportunities (What is Social Networking. com, 2009).
Social networking sites are so popular in today’s society, thus resulting to the formation of websites serving as an online community of internet users. Depending on the nature of the social networking site, many of these online communities share some commonality such as political views, religion or hobbies. Once a person is granted a personal account in a SNS, he or she can begin to socialize. The socialization in these sites allows a person to view other members’ profile and contact them (What is Social Networking. com, 2009).
Some of the most popular social networking sites today are Facebook, MySpace, Friendster, Hi5 and Bebo. These sites encourage students to join the online community chat with their friends, organizing outside meetings and acquire information (Thelwall, 2008). Social networking sites have been proven to be an effective way in self-expression and making relationships with other people. The features of the social networking websites allow members to share pictures, files and clips to other members of the online community. The social networking sites help people to find old and new friends and connect with them.
One of the benefits of social networking sites is that it updates people about their friends and relatives located in distant places and those whom they have not seen for a long time. It also enables individuals to meet people that share the same interest like theirs (“Social Networking Sites Commonly Used”, 2009). The diversity of people in the online community allows a person to make friends with people from different country with different ethnicity. The socialization with foreign users will help people to learn few things about the culture and traditions of other people (What is Social Networking. om, 2009).
The demand on the social networking sites make these types of sites to grow in numbers. There are also some social networking sites that employ open membership and do not have a specific commonality among their members. This kind of website allows anyone to become a member, regardless of their hobbies, beliefs and views (What is Social Networking. com, 2009). Despite the advantages rendered by the SNS to its members, it also poses some disadvantages. Data phishing, wherein people can obtain personal and important information from another person, is one of the dangers within online communities.
In addition, computer viruses can spread through these online communities. Thus, extreme caution is needed in engaging in social networking sites. Security is an important aspect in a social networking site and one of the qualities that the user should find in an online community. SNS should be able to provide options in terms of the security and privacy of the users. They should also provide the service of reporting or blocking of nuisance users. Moreover, a social networking site must be able provide a searching tool for people to find friends and expand relationships (TopTenREVIEWS, 2009).
International Students and SNS Many students seek quality and international higher education to foreign countries. The number of non-U. S. students enrolled in colleges and universities in the United States during the 2007-2008 academic year jumped by seven percent with a total of 623,805 students. In today’s competitive global environment, international education has become the latest trend in the society to acquire global competence. According to the data presented by Open Doors, the United States is still the premier destination for international students (Thomas, 2008).
In a short span of time, social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace have become popular by accumulating tens of millions of members that are mostly composed of teenagers, specifically students. International students are also the members of social networking sites. However, international students make use of these sites significantly. One of the uses of social networking sites to international students is to contact friends and relatives from their country of origin and to make new friends in their host country.
International students in the United States face a number of challenges in relation to the adjustment to their new cultural environment. They are more likely to experience stress during the process of cross-cultural adaptation, which is referred to as acculturative stress. In a study conducted within a group Chinese international students in a university in the United States, it is found out that students who experienced less acculturative stress are reported to be receiving higher amounts of emotional and informational support from online ethnic social groups.
Moreover, international students who have less interpersonal social network tend to receive more emotional and informational support from online groups (Ye, 2004). Online social networking helps international students to cope with their present environment and to make things and situations more tolerable. International students find support and help from other international student members of the online community. Moreover, some international students find friends in their host country to help them adapt more easily in their present cultural environment.
This particular action of people is described in a theory in intercultural communication, specifically the cross-cultural adaptation. This theory was developed by Young Kim in 1977. The theory states that “immigrants and aliens in foreign countries who participated in networks of the host country would be more likely to become acculturated than immigrants who were involved only in immigrant communication networks” (“Cross-Cultural Adaptation Theory”, 2001). This means that international students that participate in the social networking sites and having more friends from their host country are more likely to adapt easily in their environment.
Moreover, online communication and interaction with the friends in the host country will help one to learn more about the culture, traditions and language of the cultural environment. The theory further stresses that the immigrants will be more likely to become accustomed to the culture of the host country if they engage or participate in the communication networks rather than not engaging in the networks of the country (“Cross-Cultural Adaptation Theory”, 2001). Communication networks pertain to mass media in the host country.
Internet is a form of mass media. If an alien in the country participate in the social networks and interact with people from the host country, they are more likely to acculturate than those who did not choose to engage in such communication networks. Moreover, social networking sites have become the new trend in communication among friends in the country. Thus, interacting and communicating with friends from the host country constantly will help more in using and practicing mastery of their language.
Learning the language is one of the difficulties experienced by the international students and because they have difficulty in using the language, they manage poorly in their subjects. Constant communication will help to adapt on the language utilized in one’s present cultural environment. Conclusion Today’s digital society is characterized with the extensive use of computers and the internet. The popularity of internet and web browsing brought about the emergence of various websites offering various information and services.
Most significantly, it brought the emergence of the social networking sites that are popular among the youngsters and students. In a short span of time, the demand for social networking site has significantly increased. Students are the main users of social networking sites which provide them with different features that enable students to send and share pictures with other online members. In addition, this has also become the new trend in online communication.
International students are constantly arriving at the country in search of higher quality education. The number of international students is increasing in various universities and colleges in the United States. Thus, international students make use of social networking sites significantly in order to allow them to communicate with friends both from their country of origin and host country. Most importantly, social networking sites aid international students to acculturate or adapt more easily to the cultural environment of their host country.
Moreover, it helps them to acquire facility on the language used and helps them to communicate with other people interpersonally. Constant communication and interaction with other people from their present cultural environment helps them to adapt on the culture and language of the host country. Personally, I think that social networking sites have revolutionized our relationships with other people. Through the social networking sites, we are updated and informed about our family and friends. Also, we can easily communicate with them even if they are located in distant places.
Social networking sites also let people know other people from foreign countries and know about their own culture and language. I think that social networking sites are beneficial to individuals, especially to those who live in a foreign country. They can easily gain knowledge in their present cultural environment if they participate in communication networks like the social networking sites. Moreover, they gain friends and networks that will be an advantage to them as they go through their lives in a foreign land.