The Impact of Computer Mediated Communication on Interpersonal and Intercultural

The recent past has seen tremendous development in terms of new media that has, as a result, accelerated the human society’s globalization trend especially in the last couple of decades. As a result of the new communications media, the society, and human interactions feature high interconnection in relatively complex levels. In light of the above, new scholars are investigating the underlying relationship between the interpersonal and intercultural communication with respect to the new media. The major concerns of the new researchers in the above field include: a study of the impact of culture on the new media’s development, new media’s impact on the personal and social identity, as well as the general impact of social media on interpersonal and intercultural communication. In light of the above provisions, it is clear that the new computer-mediated communication media brings about globalization as a result challenging the existence of both interpersonal and intercultural human communication contexts from the special characteristics they pose that are dissimilar to traditional media. The illustration of the above hypothesis will be evaluated and analyzed in various sections below.

Situation Background

The history of communication among human beings dates back to the tradition of just speaking. With the surfacing of various forces of evolution, message dissemination transited from simple oral norms, to simple script communication, to print, to wired electronic communication, all the way to wireless and digital communication techniques (Shim, 2015). In the entire communication evolution history, the greatest milestone of them all is the establishment of the internet in the 1990s, supported by the massive accessibility of computers at that time. It is after the introduction of the above that communication has experienced tremendous changes, affecting the perception of human beings in media, with respect the utility of space and time.

At the current digital communication age, global space is totally rendered obsolete because it is possible to compress time by using the technological advancement to reduce the space between two points. In light of the above, an individual have the ability to experience local, national, as well as global presence. In the present communication age, digital media easily reaches all people apart from just a little percentage of the audience. Without the confinement of space and time, the dissemination and control of messages is not a responsibility of a select group of the society such as the state, the church, or the government, but it is a responsibility shared equally by everybody (Chen, 2012). The innovation of the new face digital media has tremendously changed the mannerisms of both individuals as well as the societal nature of people: in terms of living, thinking, as well as acting.

New Media and Globalization

As highlighted above, the tremendous development of new computer moderated media is accountable for the acceleration of the globalization of the human world over the last couple of decades. With respect to the unique and distinct nature of new media, such a social networking, interpersonal and intercultural communication levels in the society are now highly interconnected (Samovar, 1998). The high interconnection nature fosters the necessary convergence used for mutual enhancement of globalization, thus transforming almost every aspect of the human society. The new computer moderated social networking techniques that are largely part of the new media are not considered “new” just as a result of their success integration with old interpersonal communication media. Their reflection in new media also features due to their improved functions that enable users of such new media to have equal control over the messages in dissemination. The functionality of the new media comprises the provision for people to make interactions with multiple individuals at the same time while individualizing the message in the process.

The major characteristics of the new computer moderated media include convergence nature, digitalism, hypertext nature, interactivity, as well as virtual nature (Chen, 2012). With the help of the above features, the new media can move globalization trends as high as possible. Essentially, globalization is a social characteristic that defines the process of overlooking geographical constraints. The more globalization grows; the more traditional interpersonal and intercultural communication techniques evolve. Interpersonally, the new media fosters globalization which in turn fosters the development of hybridized individual attributes resulting from the pushing and pulling of the various forces defining globalization and localization.  Inter-culturally, globalization turns out to be exceedingly influential in every aspect of the society (Burleson, 2003). Apart from the effect it has on a personal level, globalization penetrates into the core of the society, having a significant influence on the general society’s way of thought, life, as well as general behavior. With respect to the above, it is quite straightforward that new computer moderated media resulted to globalization – they are closely related – and thus an effect of both on either interpersonal or intercultural communication is similar (Lustig & Koester, 2010). In light of the above, the discussion below is based on new media, which would represent both.

The Impact of New Media on Intercultural Communication

With respect to the distinctive features brought forth by new computer moderated media, individuals, and the society alike have experienced a lot of changes. However, in the pursuit of bring the changes, new media challenges a lot of the traditional communication techniques, both at the interpersonal and the intercultural levels (Samovar, 1998). In both perspectives, new media influences both the content and the form of the communicated messages. In addition, it also affects the manner and level of how individuals understand the communicated information, especially because new communication, which brings about globalization, cuts across diverse ethnic or cultural groups (Chen, 2012).

From one perspective, new media leads to the development of new cultures, as a result creating a difference between traditional communication techniques and the modern techniques brought forth by the new media. Prior to the new computer moderated media, there was a general synchronization between the traditions and other non-communication innovations in the society. However, once communication development started, it was so dynamic that the traditional techniques could not keep up with the pace of the new cultures resulting from the new media. As a result, there are various impacts in communication from various angles (Samovar, 1998). It is difficult to communicate with people of different generations, as well as even among people in same culture.

Extrinsically, the new computer moderated communication media bridges the communication gap existing between various ethnic and cultural groups. The new media features social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Skype and others, which altogether exist in a fragmented nature leading the switch from the traditional cultural themes, grammar and maps, resulting in the absolute loss of cultural logic. The rearrangement and reconstruction of the traditional communication patterns affect communication both at the personal level, as well as at the societal level (Chen, 2012). As highlighted above, the new media promotes globalization which in turn, indirectly and direct forces individuals and members of the society to restructure their behaviors in such a way that they can interact with people from different cultural backgrounds. Unfortunately, the process of rearranging the personal and societal beliefs to come to mutual understanding with a global point view is overly hectic. With respect to the above, the impact resulting from the interrelationship new media, interpersonal, intercultural communication is categorized into three.

  1. Impact on Personal and Cultural Identity

The convergence between globalization and the new computer moderated media helps in bringing out a number of brand new experiences for application both at the personal and the societal level. The new communication experiences bring forth inevitable challenges towards the traditional definitions of both personal and cultural identities (Samovar, 1998). Ideally, the new media actively shakes the cultural identity roots. It does so by either strengthening or weakening the pre-existing relationship between an individual and the entire community. Through the social media and the compression of time and space, the new media successfully creates a global cyberspace, through which new cultural identities emerge in various virtual communities (Giffords, 2009).

The new personal and cultural identities created by the new media may fail to change the traditional meaning of both personal and cultural identity. However, there are visible challenges on some of the traditional attributes used in defining both, that is, interactivity, temporality, as well as multiplicity. Specifically, the personal and cultural identities according to the new computer moderated media are no longer products of historical development. The above means that there is no temporality. More so, the new personal and cultural interactions continues to happen even with the new media, only that the nature of interpersonal and community relationships with respect to the interactions in the virtual communities are different from the ones developed with respect to the traditional face-to-face basis (Lustig & Koester, 2010).

However, determining the extent at which the new personal and cultural identities resulting from the new media will prevail as a multi-faceted practice is hard. The above means that the multiplicity of the new identities is hard to determine. The personal and cultural identities affected by the above include ethnic identities, national identities, sociological identities, occupational identities, and co-cultural identities. The new computer moderated media establishes new kinds of communities and individual personalities that are not limited by either time or space. As a result, both personal and cultural identities become overly dynamic.

  1. Impact on Interpersonal and Intercultural Interactions

Other than identity, interaction is the other key aspect of both interpersonal and intercultural communication that suffers from the presence of new computer moderated media in communication (Lustig & Koester, 2010). The impact on interaction is too intense that a lot of scholars tend to explore it more than the impact on identity. With respect to interaction, the new media affects features of the relationship, adaptation, as well as conflict.

Once again, the new computer moderated media majorly refers to social media such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Blogs. The above media provide individuals from every corner of the world with the ability to represent themselves in various distinct manners while staying connected at all times in the virtual online communities. One expectation is the fact that the flexibility of the information shared in the new media directly affects, negatively or positively, the development of interpersonal and intercultural relationships even in the virtual communities with the creation of networks of different personal connections (Burleson, 2003).

Moreover, in the context of foreign languages, the new media has very positive impact on the development both interpersonal and intercultural relationships. The new media increases the degree of competence and participation especially intercultural communication. In addition to the participation in the personal and cultural level, the new media is also helpful in establishing business relationships, locally and internationally. However, the impact may have a negative impact at times. For instance, some of the new media such as Facebook, Twitter, and some Blogs reveal too much personal information about an individual’s employer, friends, and other specifics. The above would easily jeopardize constructive interpersonal and intercultural relationship (Al-Khaddam, 2013).

Finally, computer-mediated communication media promotes the development of virtual cosmopolitans in the form of virtual third cultures. With the creation of such cosmopolitan third world spaces, the individuals interacting in there hail from different cultures but are able to gather different personal and cultural backgrounds among themselves, in the process building strong online intercultural communities. The new media gives individuals the ability to exchange information globally, fostering understanding of individuals from various cultural backgrounds. As a result, the new media is very popular for immigrants as well as adventure travelers as a means of keeping contact with various friends and the relatives they have in different countries (Chen, 2012). Additionally, modern media helps in enhancing fast intercultural adaptation. In light of the above, the new computer moderated media helps such individuals as travelers, immigrants, and international students to keep company with the people they already know in their home or previous countries as they wait to be comfortable enough to establish new social connections in their new environments.


  1. Effect of National Culture on New Media

As stipulated above, international exchange culture promoted by the computer moderated media plays a very vital role with respect to the effects of both the processes and the outcomes of personal and cultural interactions (Lustig & Koester, 2010). From the above communication perspective, it is clear that culture too can dictate how the media is used. There are various aspects of an individual as well as the general societal culture that influence the behavior of people with respect to a certain electronic media. The personal expression style, the cultural thinking patterns, as well as the context of a given culture act as the main manifestation of all cultural and personal values, thus, they can easily influence the applicability of a certain computer moderated media. The above influence is mostly on social media such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and MySpace, among others (Abdullah, 2007).

However, the effect of culture on the new social media varies from one culture to another (Radi, 2003).  There are two distinct categories of cultures with respect to the ability to influence new media, especially electronic media: high and low-context cultures. The main difference between the two finds its basis from the perspective that each views certain aspects of the content of the communications media. For example, a low-context culture may view YouTube as an explicit media where a high-context culture views it as implicit. The aspects applied to the variation of media between the above two variations of culture include: meaning display, personal relationship, verbal interaction, and message style (Chen, 2012). The above variations are classified as explicit or implicit, transitory or permanent, direct or indirect, or detailed or simple in low-context and high-context cultures, respectively.

The cultural values significantly influence the processes of social networking especially with the new electronic media. The rationale for the above finds basis in the fact that the dimensions of collectivism, as well as the individualism in the cultures, provide a certain attitude orientation that determines the overall conceptualization of an individual or a society towards a certain media. According to a study by Kim, Sohn, and Choi (2010), the motives behind the use of social media are the same for all students. However, the ones in high-context cultures that feature collectivist social expectations yearn to achieve social support from their already established social relationships. On the other hand, the one in low-context cultures with rather individualistic features seeks to focus more on entertainment instead of social relationships. Moreover, with respect to new electronic media interactions, individuals in low-context cultures focus on self-promotion and thus seek to expand their relations in the social network, even when it is not worthwhile.

With respect to the general argument of most people, new media provides a platform for individuals from different cultures to have the freedom of expressing and establishing their opinions and relationships. However, in the pursuit of achieving the above, new computer moderated media also brings also challenges certain values in the interpersonal and intercultural perspective of human communication. The new computer moderated media mostly refers to social media such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Social Blogs, among others. Due to their universal applicability, the application of new media must feature globalization since they go hand in hand. Discussed from a global perspective, the new computer moderated media have various impacts on interpersonal and intercultural communication. Broadly, the impacts feature on the personal and cultural identity, as well as in personal and cultural interactions. However, unknown to most people, to some significant extent, some aspects of culture, both on a personal and a cultural perspective also impacts on the development and establishment of new media.


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Al-Khaddam, H. (2013). Impact of Social Networks on Interpersonal Communication of the Students University College Irbid Girls: Facebook as a Model. Cross-Cultural Communication9(5), 17-22.

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