Culture Shock Is Only a Click Away

by Colin Walker

Colin Walker is a graduate assistant at Central Michigan University and a former classmate of ours at Marist College. His independent study, The Effect of Social Media on Intracultural Shock, is part of what Don’t Get Lazy is all about. Please give the article a read and leave some feedback for Colin.

         Two years ago, I received atremendous offer to become a graduate teaching assistant at Central MichiganUniversity. Six months later I moved from Syracuse, New York to Mount Pleasant,Michigan. I thought I would be able to adjust without any problems, but I didnot take into account the cultural differences between the two places. I failedto do enough research about the area prior to moving, resulting in a lack ofunderstanding about it. I felt I had made a mistake, but realized it was alearning experience as well. This event inspired an ongoing study into what this culture shockis and how to potentially overcome it.
            Everydaypeople interact with one another, but what occurs when they are from differentgroups?  Groups are a social identity forindividuals to associate with one another, and they create multiple sectorswithin a culture. Some of these sectors cross over with one another when anindividual associates with multiple groups.
            “Agroup is perfectly stable only when no new information enters the group andeveryone in the group knows everything that anyone else in the group knows”(Carley, p. 332, 1991). This requires a large amount of communication involvingdifferent media channels. The mediacan create confusion by introducing a high volume of information, whether true or false, togroups at a high rate. This can potentially besmirch  agroup’s identity. Groups take pride in their distinctiveness from one another and,as a result, an in-group bias iscreated. People may not believe theirgroups have a bias. But when you are trying to get together with friends, arethere certain ones you call first? Are there particular events you may not tellspecific people about? It is something we all do, but it’s motivated bypsychological and social factors.

           Mostpeople strive to learn more about the world, which creates numerous views inregards to it. This is a common contributing factor to the creation of groups.It doesn’t mean you necessarily believe the same exact thing, but you can seewhere someone is coming from in his or her belief. What happens when you don’tunderstand people’s views in an area, or a fact about the area itself? You canstruggle to understand what’s going on in any new area, regardless of itsdistance from your home.

            Whenthis occurs it is called intraculturalshock, a new term coined from the independent study that I am currentlyconducting. This term represents the anxiety created by uncertainty andstriving for resources. Transplants, contrary to the natives of an area,experience these feelings on an everyday basis in American culture because theywant a sense of stability in their lives. Stability can be associated with thefeeling of happiness for many individuals. There is a way to lessen this senseof anxiety, though and it is by acquiring information. This can help anindividual respect the people and values of an area. Wouldn’t it be nice totravel somewhere and not have to hear, “you’re not from around here are you?”
            Oneway of achieving this is by using social media, which allows for individuals toconnect with others in numerous areas. It is typically only a click away withthe multitude of Wi-Fi hot spots, 3G and 4G-network coverage, and availabilityof computer devices to use. For instance, Twitter doesn’t require a data plananymore because a simple text messaging service can be used to update statusesand read other people’s information. Technological innovations have led toconvenience in regards to transmitting messages to one another.
            Thisdoes not necessarily mean that communication has improved, though. The use ofthis non face-to-face method doesn’t allow for the transmission of meaning.Nonverbal cues, among other communication factors, are not associated with thismethod and can result in an altered message. This can produce unintendedmessages, which can be misinterpreted. It is a downfall of social media, butthat is why it should only be one form of connecting with people.
            Whensomeone is going to a new area, social media can be a convenient way ofacquiring information about that area to lessen their anxiety in regards to it.Would you agree with that statement? Have Facebook and Twitter helped peoplegoing to new areas to help lessen the anxiety they experience? Recentinterviews, filmed for a documentary, have shown that social media can helplessen the anxiety but cannot be the sole method of acquiring information. Asurvey will be conducted in the near future to obtain more information aboutthe matter.
            Mostlikely, you are reading this blog because you  want to acquire information. It is anotherform of social media, and I wonder if channels such as blogging have helped youovercome anxiety in a new area because you learned something from  them.
            Somepeople may think a person is just complaining on Facebook or Twitter when theypost a negative feeling about a new place they are in. The person may fail torealize that is their lack of understanding causing this. Maybe people need tochange the way they use social media because it could rectify the culture shocka person may go through. Powerful technology is available at our fingertips,but we must respect it and learn how to use it to better our fellow users andourselves.
            Anycomments about this would be greatly appreciated. This is part of a largerresearch study being conducted and its goal is to help shed light on thereality of intracultural shock and looking for ways to overcome it. Thank you.

Creative Commons License

Culture Shock is Only a Click Away by Colin Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

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