Why the caged bird sings: cultural factors underlying the use of online social networks among Saudi Arabian and UK users

Selim, Heyla (2017) Why the caged bird sings: cultural factors underlying the use of online social networks among Saudi Arabian and UK users. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

The 21st century has seen a dramatic rise in Internet access and connectivity across the
world. To date, only a small amount of research has been published on the subject of
culture and Internet usage. This thesis investigates whether, and how, individuals from
two different cultures (Saudi Arabia and the UK) engage with online social networks
(OSNs) differently, and what might be the underlying psychological factors explaining
such differences.

A first qualitative study used interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA;
Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) to investigate motivations for using OSNs among
Saudi and British participants. Both groups reported that they used OSNs to present a
positive self-image, while desiring to maintain a sense of their ‘genuine’ self in online
interactions. For Saudi participants, OSNs also provided opportunities for selfexpression
that were otherwise unavailable. British participants reported using OSNs for
relationship maintenance.

A second qualitative study also looked at motivations, but narrowed the focus
to identity motives, applying motivated identity construction theory (Vignoles, 2011) to
a thematic analysis of tweets written by citizens of Saudi Arabia and the United
Kingdom. Motives for meaning, belonging, distinctiveness, continuity, efficacy, and
self-esteem were all detectable in the tweets of both Saudi and British users. The
manner in which these motives were pursued varied according to the cultural context of
users within the affordances of the online context in which they were communicating.

The research project then aimed to establish a way of measuring differences in
online self-presentation strategies, by developing the online self-presentation strategies
scale (OSPSS). Items were selected using exploratory structural equation modelling
(ESEM). The scale was incorporated in a large-scale (N = 694) quantitative study of
Saudi and British OSN users that measured self-presentation strategies, motivations of
OSNs use and target audience. Mediation analyses were conducted to find out whether
cultural differences in these dimensions were explained by two forms of cultural
variation: relational mobility and Schwartz’ theory of basic values. Self-enhancement
vs. self-transcendence values and relational mobility, more than openness to change vs.
conservation values, accounted for mean differences between the groups in motives,
targeted audiences and self-presentation strategies.

Together the studies reveal observable differences in the ways in which people
from Saudi Arabia and the UK engage with OSNs. These are partially explained by the
affordances that social media provide, which compensate for the unavailability of
certain modes of expression and communication within offline cultural contexts, and by
cultural differences in value priorities.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Psychology > Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF0199 Behaviourism. Neobehaviourism. Behavioural psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology > HM1001 Social psychology
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 22 Oct 2017 07:28
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2017 07:28
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/70592

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