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Interpersonal communication enables people to send and receive messages which have different meanings. There are different factors which influence the manner in which people communicate with one another. Cultural practices have a big impact on people’s attitudes, behavior and the reasons that make them communicate with other people.
Moreover, since cultural practices affect people’s ways of life they influence the patterns of communication they follow whenever they exchange ideas with their peers in different social settings. Intercultural communication is an important part of human existence because it allows people to develop and sustain mutually beneficial interpersonal communications with one another. This essay discusses how online based communication platforms affect interpersonal interactions between people from different cultural backgrounds.
The world has diverse cultures which influence the manner in which people from different cultural backgrounds interact with each other to exchange ideas. As a result, every region has its own cultural practices, which offer people living there a sense of belonging and identity. These cultural practices shape their attitudes towards various issues that happen in their societies and beyond. In addition, people with similar cultural backgrounds find it easy to develop strong connections due to their common heritage.
They speak similar languages, eat the same foods and observe similar customs (Lustig & Koester, 2009, p. 27). Therefore, these shared values bind such people together making them more willing to engage in various commercial and social activities which add meaning to their lives. In addition, humans are social beings and they are inclined to develop networks with other people to increase their social connections. In modern times, human beings use both traditional and electronic modes of communication to communicate with other people in different locations.
People that migrate and settle in new places are likely to find it difficult to adjust to new cultural practices which are observed by people living there. More importantly, such people may be forced to find out the best methods they can use to communicate with other people to integrate easily into their new societies. A person may not be ready to deal with a new set of cultural values which are predominant in the new location (Lustig & Koester, 2009, p. 33).
In the past, traditional forms of communication were used by people from different cultures to pass and receive messages, from which they could interpret different meanings. However, modern communication tools have transformed the manner in which people from different cultural backgrounds communicate with one another. Factors such as formal education, urbanization, improved transport networks and technology have an impact on intercultural communication between people from different cultural backgrounds.
The role of technology in intercultural and interpersonal communication has become more important in people‘s lives and influences their views towards other cultures which are observed in foreign locations. More people are using electronic forms of communication to exchange messages with one another and this has shaped their cultural thinking. For instance, the internet has had a significant influence on the manner in which people interact in different countries due to its high quality tools (Lustig & Koester, 2009, p. 45).
The internet has enabled people to communicate in real time with other people in different places, thereby reducing geographical barriers which made it difficult for people in the past to meet and share their experiences. As a result, people from diverse cultural backgrounds are able to interact and share ideas easily through various online platforms. In addition, it has made it easy for people to increase their knowledge on cultural practices which are observed in different global regions.
Electronic forms of communication are playing an important role in linking people from diverse cultural backgrounds together. Internet based communication formats are used by many people in different parts of the world. One of the earliest forms of online based communication tools was the electronic mail, which was very popular in the 1990’s and at the turn of the new millennium.
Email revolutionized the manner in which people communicate because it enabled senders to convey messages to different parts of the globe at a fixed cost (Durant & Shepherd, 2009, p. 149). It rendered other forms of communication such as fax, surface mail and telegrams obsolete due to the high levels of convenience it offered. Moreover, it made it possible for a sender to attach additional documents such as photos, written documents and other forms of data on a message. Therefore, it increased people’s willingness to develop strong intercultural relationships with other people in different geographical regions.
Factors that Impact on Computer Mediated Communication
Many people use electronic forms communication to perform different functions. They enable people to send and receive written, sound and visual messages and this has made them more popular than other means of communication. Social networking platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit allow their users to share different types of information on their online accounts which can be viewed by their peers.
Computer mediated communications have opened up cultural systems that exist in different global regions. This has enabled intercultural communications between people from different places to thrive (Durant & Shepherd, 2009, p. 153). In addition, more people use digital media to increase their understanding on other foreign cultures which have good values. Consequently, this has encouraged them to engage actively with people from other places who share similar interests to internalize positive concepts which are associated with other foreign cultures.
People are influenced by values they practice while growing up to develop relationships with other people. Intercultural relationships are formed easily when two or more people overcome different cultural prejudices that affect the manner in which they socialize. More importantly, cultural taboos may encourage or discourage people to reveal more about themselves to other people they meet in different places (Durant & Shepherd, 2009, p. 157).
For instance, conservative gender roles that are observed in Asia and the Middle East discourage women from these regions to interact openly with men from other parts of the world through online social networks. Since cultural attitudes in such regions discourage open socialization between men and women, female internet users find it difficult to build and sustain strong relationships with their male counterparts. Therefore, predominant gender roles as stipulated by strict cultural codes set standards of behavior which both men and women must conform to.
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In addition, people that have limited access to the internet due to time or financial constraints have clear objectives which they want to achieve through online interactions. Therefore, such people are likely to opt for a small circle of online friends with whom they can share experiences on various issues that affect them. They may also be encouraged to join groups which have members that have interests similar to their own.
This enables them to get meaningful experiences whenever they interact with other people in their close-knit groups (Dimbleby & Burton, 2007, p. 49). Consequently, such people are likely to be very selective whenever they interact with people from other cultural backgrounds through online communication tools. As a result, they opt for intercultural communications which bring more value into their lives to increase their personal fulfillment.
Many people who interact through virtual networks of communication are not able to see one another due to high levels of anonymity. More so, they do not see non verbal signals from people they interact with to understand their emotional state of mind and their reactions to their messages. Facial expressions, gestures and other body movements have different meanings in various societies and they enable communicators to understand one another more effectively (Dimbleby & Burton, 2007, p. 56).
Valuable non-verbal signals which make people’s interactions more meaningful such as nodding and eye contact cannot be applied in many online communication platforms. Consequently, this makes it difficult for people to understand the personalities of people they communicate with and how they are likely to react to their messages. As a result, this hinders meaningful exchanges between online participants in an intercultural communication environment.
In different places, individuals have low or high self esteem depending on various situations they face in their lives. This influences the manner in which they use different internet based technologies to interact with other online users in different forums. As a result, such users are likely to choose the people they engage with carefully to avoid exposing their weaknesses (Dimbleby & Burton, 2007, p. 69).
People that have high self esteem may be encouraged to find out more about cultural practices observed in other regions to expand their interpersonal networks. On the other hand, people that have low self esteem may feel timid and as such may find it difficult to develop beneficial intercultural exchanges with their fellow online communicators from other cultural backgrounds. As a result, this denies them an opportunity to exchange meaningful experiences with their peers.
The openness with which people communicate encourages them to be active participants in different virtual forums. As a result, this enables them to have different points of view towards a particular subject that is publicized in various social forums. In some instances, high levels of anonymity encourage online communicators to become bold and this influences the manner in which they engage other participants in multicultural online forums. People who come from individualized and collective group cultures use different approaches to interact with other users on social networks.
For instance, on Facebook, people usually have different reactions to different posts as influenced by their cultural values (Marcoccia, 2012, p. 354). Online users from western countries which cherish individualism are likely to have a liberal world view and this will influence the manner in which they react to various situations. On the other hand, people from Africa cherish collective group cultures and they are likely to rely on their conservative cultural values to form their own perceptions.
The behavior of people from individualistic and collectivistic cultures also affects the manner in which they engage with other users through online communication tools. People that come from cultures where individualism is highly respected are more interested in meeting and interacting with new users to gain more exposure. However, people from collectivist cultures prefer having close relationships with a limited number of people who they share similar interests with.
As a result, users from individualistic cultures are likely to have diverse interests which may make it difficult for them to build and sustain meaningful long term relationships with people they meet online (Marcoccia, 2012, p. 356). People that observe collective cultural values prefer to sustain strong relationships with a small number of online participants who make a positive impression on them. This helps them to gain meaningful insights into their personal lives and other activities which interest them.
Stereotypes and cultural prejudices encourage some online communicators to acquire different types of virtual personalities whenever they interact with other online users. As a result, this is likely to affect the manner in which a person communicates with other people online. In addition, it may also affect the manner in which people in an intercultural communication setup perceive one another depending on the types of messages they exchange.
Therefore, some online users may strongly agree over various issues in their online discussions and this is likely to affect the nature of relationships they have with each other. In addition, stereotypes may make it difficult for people to tolerate diverse opinions from other people in virtual communication environments (Marcoccia, 2012, p. 360). Some users are likely to use obscene or abusive language when communicating with other users who do not share opinions similar to theirs. As a result, this may lead to conflicts between different communicators thereby making it difficult for them to sustain beneficial interactions.
Online based communications allow people to acquire new slangs and conversational terms which become part of their languages. For instance, young people use different abbreviations on Twitter and Facebook to show their friends and other online users they interact with their inner emotions. The creative use of abbreviations, slangs and symbols has an important effect on intercultural communication because since language is dynamic, new terms that are considered trendy are picked up and popularized by different communicators (Wood, 2012, p. 79).
As a result, this makes people who interact constantly on social networks to use various terms to express their anger, disgust, sadness, adoration and happiness towards various issues in their lives. In addition, they can use different visual tools to express their personal emotions in different virtual forums. Consequently, this disregards conventional rules of written formal communication because online communicators use their own creative instincts to have lively conversations with other users.
More people are also using online tools to react to different situations that they feel deny them a chance to progress. For instance, Facebook, Twitter and You Tube updates allowed the Occupy Wall Street movement to gain popularity across the world (Marcoccia, 2012, p. 363). This emboldened people to use similar approaches to demand for more accountability from their leaders in government.
Therefore, this is another aspect of intercultural communication which allows people to borrow social concepts which have achieved success in other countries due to their exposure to online citizen journalism. Consequently, news and video sharing online platforms make it easy for people to adopt new ways of putting pressure on their governments to demand for more transparency. In addition, this sensitizes them on their rights as citizens to ensure they are not taken advantage of by their governments and other corporate organizations. As a result, they are able to demand for increased involvement in government decision making processes to bring positive changes to their societies.
The increase in the number of online users has encouraged different people to develop persuasive messages which enable them to capture the attention of people from different cultural backgrounds more effectively. For instance, some musicians use YouTube and Twitter to generate global interest on their albums before they release them. Additionally, companies have integrated their marketing strategies with social media campaigns to generate a lot of interest about products which they intend to sell in the market (Wood, 2012, p. 81).
Therefore, they use such approaches to appeal to consumers from diverse demographic backgrounds to make them more interested in purchasing their products and services. As a result, this allows them to use their employees to come up with appropriate intercultural communication strategies which conform to the lifestyles of people from specific demographic groups.
In conclusion, online communications influence the manner in which people interact with other online users from diverse cultural backgrounds. People are influenced by their stereotypes, cultural values and personal attitudes whenever they communicate with other people on online social networks. As a result, this enables them to borrow new ideas from other communicators who they encounter in different virtual forums. This shows that computer mediated communication platforms have affected the manner in which people from different cultural backgrounds communicate with one another.
Dimbleby, R., & Burton, G. (2007). More than words: An introduction to communication. London, UK: Routledge.
Durant, A. & Shepherd, I. (2009). Culture and communication’ in intercultural communication. European Journal of English Studies, 13 (2), 147-162.
Lustig, M.W., & Koester, J. (2009). Intercultural competence: Interpersonal communication across cultures. New York, NY: Allyn & Bacon.
Marcoccia, M. (2012). The internet, intercultural communication and cultural variation. Language and Intercultural Communication, 12 (4), 353-368.
Wood, J. (2012). Interpersonal communication: Everyday encounters. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.