People of individualistic cultures and collectivistic cultures communicate differently. People from collectivistic cultures prefer face-to-face and video communication since so much of their communication is derived from body language and facial expressions. People of individualistic cultures prefer to write and email or send a text message since they do not rely on seeing the body language or reactions of the people they are communicating with.
Collectivistic cultures are group-oriented, relationship-oriented, focus on community needs, and emphasize common goals (Cherry, 2020). Collectivistic cultures prefer indirect communication to direct communication. This is especially true when people need to save face. This means that they prefer communication which is high-context, containing face-to-face communication which allows for body language, face work, and ambiguities (Merkin, n.d.).
Collectivist cultures richer prefer synchronous media, such as a video conference and telepresence system, since they receive feedback from the other party’s reactions and can read their intent by watching body language (Leonard, 2009, p.859). Collectivists watching a WebEx or Zoom call can see the other party as they communicate, which accomplishes this desire.
Using new and emerging technologies, such as social networking, rich media is extremely important to collectivistic cultures. They appreciate the ability to do audio chat, video chat, and group video chat as a part of their communications solutions, including through social networking (Kitkhachonkunlaphat, 2015, §4.1). Social media tools should enable close, interpersonal relationships and narrow relationships (Kitkhachonkunlaphat, 2015, §4.4 & §6). So, for emerging and improving social networking platforms, the ability to share media and have personal or group chats is important. This is why social platforms such as WeChat, TikTok, and Snapchat are growing so rapidly. They are ideal for collectivist communications.
Individualistic cultures have loose ties within their cultural groups, a high degree of autonomy, independence, and self-reliance (Bauer, 2010, p.40). Individualistic cultures prefer direct communication to indirect communication. This means that they prefer low-context speech which is concise and explicit (Merkin, n.d.). There is not a lot of value in other cues or body language.
Individualistic cultures prefer less-personal interactions. This is evident with individualists preferring to communicate via messaging and email, and even attending Zoom calls with their cameras turned off. The context that is lost is not relevant to individualists. Individualists prefer less-rich, leaner, asynchronous communication methods, which include blogs, social network posts, text messages, and emails (Leonard, 2009, p.860).
Communications that make sense for individualistic cultures are Twitter, text messages, blog posts, and emails. For individualistic cultures, asynchronous storytelling platforms such as Medium as well as other messaging platforms such as Signal (an encrypted asynchronous messaging platform) allow the direct communication style without any requirements around high-context communication.
In conclusion, social networks are evolving to give collectivist cultures the rich experience that they need, including the ability to video call, group chat, and forge one-on-one relationships as well as group identity. Individualist cultures may use all of these features, but often rely on sending messages since individualists are communicating in a way that is largely ignorant of facial expressions and body language.
Bauer, T., Ergodan, B. (2010). Organizational Behavior, Version 1.1. Licensed under Creative Commons. Flat World Knowledge.
Cherry, K. (2020). Understanding Collectivistic Cultures. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/what-are-collectivistic-cultures-2794962
Kitkhachonkunlaphat K., Vorvoreanu M. (2015) Social Media Design Requirements for the Collectivist International Students. In: Rau P. (eds) Cross-Cultural Design Applications in Mobile Interaction, Education, Health, Transport and Cultural Heritage. CCD 2015. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 9181. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-20934-0_3
Leonard, K. (2009). Culture and Communication: Cultural Variations and Media Effectiveness. SAGE Publications. Retrieved from https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.870.1011&rep=rep1&type=pdf
Merkin, R. (n.d.). The Relationship between Individualism / Collectivism. Retrieved from https://immi.se/intercultural/nr39/merkin.html