American Facebook users are not as worried about privacy, or open to friendships with people they do not already know, as their Namibian counterparts. As part of a joint US-South Africa research project, privacy concerns, habits, and views of regular Facebook users in both Namibia and the United States are compared. Among their goals was to see how what is often classified as a more individualist culture (the United States) compares to a more collectivist culture (Namibia) when it comes to social networking values.
Participants were asked about how likely they were to accept friend requests from people they didn’t know, how often they studied and updated their privacy options, and whether or not they posted about or discussed death or other emotional topics on their Facebook wall. The study consisted of three groups, one American, one Namibian living in Namibia, and one group of Namibians living outside of their country, Each had regular access to the internet at home and at work, although Namibians and Americans had typically started using the site in different time periods.
The results show that compared to American users, Namibians in general are much more open to discussing death and using Facebook to handle the grieving process. This could be the result of something cultural but also the fact that it is an affordable and effective way to get information out about a death and memorial services. Namibians were also shown to be more likely to accept unknown people as friends compared to American participants who were concerned about what value or benefit there would be to accepting such requests. In terms of sharing political or religious views, as well as negative emotional states, it was found that Americans were more cautious and worried about upsetting others and keeping Facebook as a space only for positive sharing.
Despite these differences, the researchers clearly state that there are more similarities than differences between these two cultures despite being one being known as more collectivist and the other as individualist.