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Social Media - The Main Force in Building Global Cultural Identity

The recent growth of social media usage and globalisation has a huge impact on the development of cultural identity. With recent increase in use of various online platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, a vital role in the vanishing of distinctive heritage is played, and the concept has gained worldwide dimension. The first step would be to define cultural identity and globalisation. This will be followed by examples of how media has aided in the international development of public character.


Globalisation has developed as a key factor in which individuals within the framework of their homelands can acculturate to other civilisational streams. Technological breakthrough, and in this case recent devolvement of smartphones, is allowing anyone in the world to access social platforms simply within the reach of a hand. This means that people can read various texts or watch videos about way of life universally and even associate themselves with the one they like. As Tomlinson argues, transnational expansion is also seen as a tool for more complex communication across regional boundaries. Globalisation-based acculturation reflects a direct and/or indirect exposure of one culture to new habitable factors bot induced by sources such as advertising, trade, learning and travel. As Schwartz highlighted, personality explains one’s perception of themselves, answering a question who they are, whereas cultural identity corresponds with a particular community which an individual is a part of. Following, It could be further elaborated that global identity is not about ‘improving’ local distinctiveness by changing it, but about ‘expanding’ the regional character towards a deeper understanding and critical acceptance of worldwide habits, its societal aspects and problems, through online networking websites and the internet. A following paradigm can be formulated – globalisation is not an international depersonalisation, but rather a customary change towards a foreign one. Therefore, how and why people associate themselves with cultural identity other than their "initial" one - (e.g. acquired from their parents)?

In Canada and the United States, where Korean pop culture has attained popularity among teenagers, an example of how young people readily connect themselves with another lifestyle can be seen. Since the worldwide success of the K-pop music group BTS was driven by the support of its loyal fan base, internet-based networks have played a crucial role in spreading the local youth customs in world markets. Transnationally, common cultural assets actually created in non-Western countries benefit from online growth, as audiences in the world have enjoyed mass culture broadcasted on local social media platforms. As Choe and Russell have explained, the "Korean wave" overcame Asia prior to the rise of the worldwide internet community; although, “YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter make it easier for K‑pop bands to reach a wider audience in the West, and those fans are turning to the same networking tools to proclaim their devotion”. Now that traditions of pop in Korea have gained its popularity, its fan groups have to use the internet to consume this K-pop wave, also referred to as ‘hallyu.’ All in all, it is clear that the development of on-screen life has affected globalisation of such local heritage and its induction in the lives of the Canadian and American youth. To conclude this example, it can be seen that Canadian and American youth have not given up on their own traditions but have incorporated parts of Korean culture through public network to develop their mostly local identities towards acquisition of a more international one.

The youth in Bishkek is a third instance of global cultural identity processed online. Via huge, easily searchable databases, the spread of worldwide networked media has contributed to a distortion of societal connections and modern forms of shaping identities, and even the readjusting of 'users' as producers and creators of content, where identities are seen as more abstract, more vulnerable and much less contingent on local expressions of heritage. Kirmse's analysis of globalisation and youth habits in southern Kyrgyzstan is among the few papers to illustrate the importance of the Internet and its link to identity in Central Asia. He found that online photos played a role in what he referred to as a 'style and identity market'. Virtual platforms such as Classmates.ru, have become popular. Due to their ability to connect schoolmates from villages, many network pages, often hosted in Russia, have captured attention. More than ever, urban millennials in Bishkek are dependent on international knowledge and internet expertise. As they're doing so, against the global backdrop, they are gradually assessing the world views and attitudes of relatives, educators, politicians and other conventional authority figures. Suddenly, if they can afford the internet, they are willing to equate themselves with everyone, anywhere. Moreover, Kyrgyzstan's use of the internet has launched modern ways of thought and viewing the local life, especially through quest and (national and international) communication, resulting in a lack of cultural consistency. Numerous changes seem to be facilitated by search and networking: new fundamental educational positions; new and enduring ties with overseas persons (Non-Kyrgyz and Kyrgyz); etc. Therefore, it can be easily understood that networking websites shape people's understanding of their own cultural identity and makes them lose certainty about who they are in relation to their community. To conclude this example, Bishkek youth are changing their worldview through online content, identifying themselves with a more Western (in this case Russian, Slavic) heritage and thereby developing their local distinctiveness in the direction of an international one.


On the other hand, some may argue that a vital role in the globalisation of cultural identity is played by television or newspapers, but not internet-based platforms. However, youngsters do not use these media. The worldwide use of virtual networks to enjoy popular culture has changed their tastes by relying heavily on digital channels to access popular content rather than buying CDs and DVDs or viewing popular entertainment on TV and in theatres. It should also be noted that television, far more than the internet, is subject to censorship and editing, which prevents individuals from forming their own view of the world thus developing a personal approach to global identity.


In conclusion, social media are the main force of building global cultural identity because of the technological breakthrough, which allowed easy access to information on any kind of lifestyle in the world. Moreover, the internet gave cultures an opportunity to propagate themselves, so that popularity could be gained, and others could get to know them and even associate themselves. That recent development of online life has allowed young people worldwide to engage in a foreign way of life thus shape a more global cultural identity. It can also be noted that it is exactly the internet which allows wide public immersion into the world's habitable issues. This can be viewed as the opposite to the 'traditional' way of being physically present (travelling), which allows - and certainly carries out - an immersion in culture. However, nowadays due to the pandemic travelling is almost impossible. Therefore, it is digital communication which is the 'magic wand' for shaping and refining a transnational heritage.


Written by Lana Dolgopolova


Lana Dolgopolova is a columnist at DecipherGrey.