Designing and analyzing models of different functionalities of virtual social networks in intercultural ethnic communications (Case study: Tehran university students who are users of social networks).


1 Professor of Communication Department at Allameh Tabataba`i University

2 . Ph.D. student of communications science , Department of Communication Sciences, University of Allameh Tabataba`i, Tehran, Iran. (corresponding author).

3 Professor of Communication Department at Allameh Tabatabae`i University


Introduction and Problem Statement
With the increasing growth of virtual social media, intercultural communication between nations is affected by the consequences of these networks, whether intentionally or otherwise.
Researches performed in this field are indicative of different effects of cyberspace in general and virtual social networks in particular on intercultural relations; that is, some of them believe in identity reproduction in such space and some believe in the improvement of relations and reduction of intercultural sensitivities. Some other researches have found the reproduction of ethnocentric behaviors in interaction with virtual social networks as well. Due to the lack of an integrated theoretical approach in the evaluation of ethnic intercultural communication in interaction with virtual social networks, it seems necessary to ask, “Given the expansion of virtual social networks, what changes have taken place in inter-ethnic relations in Iran during recent years?”
Theoretical background:
Based on the theory of “communicative competence” by Kim regarding the non-native groups, virtual social networks affect the communicative competence of people in relation to the non-native groups as members of the non-native groups are included in personal networks of people.
Based on the “face negotiation” theory (Ting-Toomey), virtual social networks affect the communicative competence of people in relation to the non-native groups through security vulnerability dialectic effective management and inclusion-differentiation. So, the more securely the self-analysis is performed; the higher their identity coherence and general self-esteem will be. According to the theory developed by Manual Castells, network society plays a basic role in the reproduction of resistance identity based on common principles.
In the qualitative phase of the research, an in-depth interview has been used as a data collection tool; and in the quantitative phase, to test and evaluate the developed conceptual pattern, survey research has been employed.
Based on in-depth interviews performed with 20 university students in Tehran from four Kurd, Lor, Fars, and Turk ethnic groups, research data have reached theoretical saturation. To analyze data, concept analysis has been used. Research data have been collected through a study performed on 384 university students in Tehran, selected via Cochran formula.
Results and Discussion
Components of three variables of ethnic intercultural effects, ethnocentrism, and ethnic identity have had a relatively acceptable correlation with the three variables of diverse functions of virtual social networks in terms of intercultural communications. Therefore, considering the confirmatory factor analysis of the research, it is confirmed that the research theory i.e. pattern of diverse functions of virtual social networks is in good fit in terms of intercultural communications.
The research results showed that functional pattern in virtual social networks in terms of intercultural communications is diverse and in Prolog form. More accurately, it can be suggested that virtual social networks have a positive ethnic intercultural effect, and they will lead to ethnocentrism to become outstanding. Finally, they will lead to ethnic identity to become strengthened.
According to the research findings, virtual social networks can cause interethnic conflicts and differences and even resentment and hatred to become stronger and use ethnocentric views to be reproduced in such space. It was also shown that ethnic and racial identities in such spaces can be strengthened by virtual social networks.
Prominent results:
Considering research results, those involved in policymaking in relation to culture, cyberspace, and universities are recommended to formulate strategies and operational programs and take necessary actions regarding the adjustment of ethnic intercultural sensitivities in cyberspace in general and virtual social networks, in particular. Strengthening and promotion of media literacy and training the university students who use virtual social networks with social skills, especially those skills related to self-awareness, communication, empathy, stress coping, critical thinking, decision making and creative thinking as well as strengthening between-group social capital among them in respect of promoting out-group ethnic correlation can be effective.