Intercultural comparison: Students‘ photos on social networks

[lang_en]I have discovered an interesting study „Mobile China“ about the social networking behaviour of Chinese students compared to that of European or US students: What kind of avatar do they chose? Thanks to Virtual China who has mentioned it. The result is not astonishing from my point of view, initially a very subjective one.

The company, called JaredResearch got the not representative result, that „Chinese students rarely use their own photos as avatars“ (PDF). Following them, only 4 of 200 Chinese students abroad use personal photos as profile photos, but 58 of 200 Americans do. This is a sharp contrast to what someone’s experience is, who is a member of Facebook or its German clone Studivz. Most of the students there not only use all varieties of images of themselves, changing them regularly, but also a whole lot of additional personal images that everyone can link to ones profile. I wonder about the small size of the sample drawn. But not only to complain about that:

It was not such a great effort for me to gather some data as well. I simply logged into studivz and counted for some minutes what pictures the random generator of studivz displayed me as „Kennst du schon?“, all of them students from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. There have been approximately half male and half female. The result:

265 (92%) real personal and up to date portrait pictures with the poerson easy to cognize
11 (4%) avatars, drawings or heavily changed pictures (photoshop)
11 (4%)other pictures (e.g. ads for some events or pictures of cars, animals etc.)

And a lot of them are what Virtual China calls „Hot or not“ pictures… Also an even less representative short scan of my facebook contacts did not show even one avatar. Surely the different social networks influence the personal behaviour a lot, also whether or not to use a real image.

But it is the question if the reason is just a cultural difference, a different taste or if it is, maybe, connected to the Chinese police state on the web, despite all changes in other sectors of the social life, controlling the whole scene with censorship and painful penalties for non mainstream opinions. Or is the reason a lack of consciousness for data privacy on the European and US side?

Honestly, I myself prefer personal images compared to avatars as I can then on the one hand much easier guess what person is behind the name and on the other hand I can thus retrieve people whose image I can remember but whose name has already faded away.