Author Lee, Jason Wen Yau
Title Unbounding intercultural learning and social support through social networking sites: an exploration on Facebook
Institute Thesis (Ph.D.) National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University
Year 2013
Supervisor Kim, Beaumie
Call no. LB2376.5.M4 Lee

The prevalent advance of communicative technology over the past two decades has created a generation of users who rely on communicative tools on a daily basis. One such use is to foster interconnections among people, which in turn spurred on the growth of social networking sites, with Facebook being one of the most widely used social networking site in the world. The use of Facebook was prevalent among participants of the study who used it on a regular basis for both communication and socialization. Social networking sites create links between these participants with their family and friends back home, and also among their new friends in the new environment. It was previously thought that frequent use of technology (i.e., social networking sites, emails and instant messaging) during an exchange programme might hinder the intercultural adjustment process – as such ease in communication might lead to participants remaining emotionally attached to their home country – instead of taking on the challenge to adjust to their new environments. This study questions this assumption by looking at how users may draw, from social networking sites, resources for cross-cultural adaptation.

The focus of this study is to investigate and understand how Facebook was used by a cohort of Malaysian high school exchange students in the United States for a period spanning 7 months. The findings were mainly derived from (1) close studies of interactions amongst participants on Facebook, (2) interviews with participants before and after their exchange programme, (3) survey questionnaires and (4) Intercultural Developmental Inventory (IDI) test. One‟s Facebook “friends” are found to provide a special social support system within a virtual environment. Exchanges of comments within the status updates from participants and their friends revealed significant contributions to the participant‟s cross-cultural learning. Findings from this study also suggest that status updates contain a wealth of information that reveals a rich intercultural learning narrative. When status updates are examined across time, they thread into rich narratives of intercultural learning. At the same time, they surfaced the inherent challenges that the participants faced, during different phases of the exchange programme. Facebook, as a social website, can be seen as an informal space where participants were able to share their experiences, stay connected with friends and at the same time receive social support. The findings of this study serve to augment the growing research in the use of social media and application within the field of intercultural learning.