The Effect of Social Network Sites Use on International Students' Identity Management and Cross-Cultural Adjustment in the US
communication theory of identity
online intergroup contact
social networking sites
Pitts, Margaret J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractBuilding on the communication theory of identity, intercultural adjustment literature, and social media affordances approach, I conducted a mixed methods investigation to examine the role that communication via social networking sites (SNS) plays in international students’ psychological and sociocultural adjustment and identity gap management while in the United States. Study 1 used an online survey (N = 186) to test the effect of SNS communication with host-nationals on international students’ psychological and sociocultural adjustment through personal-relational, personal-enacted, and personal-communal identity gaps. Additionally, I examined whether SNS affordances (i.e., self-disclosure, information seeking, persistence, editability, association) moderate the effect of SNS communication with host-nationals on the three identity gaps. Study 2 used focus groups (N = 41) to explore in depth the positive and negative role of SNS and its affordances on intercultural adjustment and identity management among international students in the US. Study 1 results showed that all the three identity gaps negatively predicted psychological and sociocultural adjustment, however, only personal-communal identity gap uniquely predicted both adjustment outcomes. Counter to the predictions, SNS communication with host-nationals did not significantly associate with psychological and sociocultural adjustment through identity-gaps and SNS affordances did not moderate the relationship between SNS communication with host-nationals and identity gaps. Study 2 results revealed that SNS use facilitates international students’ psychological and sociocultural adjustment and identity management when participants capitalize on specific SNS affordances. Affordances of self-disclosure, information seeking, and association were important in facilitating psychological and sociocultural adjustment before (i.e., preacculturation) and during the sojourn and affordances of self-disclosure, information seeking, and editability were integral in allowing identity gap management. Interestingly, identity gap maintenance through selective self-disclosure on SNS emerged as an effective identity management strategy. Furthermore, ephemerality was identified as a unique and novel SNS affordance, which allowed fluidity and multiplicity of international students’ identity. The results also showed specific SNS uses and affordances that hindered intercultural adjustment and identity gap management. The findings extend the literature of SNS use and intercultural adjustment and the scope of communication theory of identity and suggest SNS use as one strategy that may benefit international students’ intercultural adjustment and identity management.
Degree ProgramGraduate College