A comparative study of online self-presentation on instagram and WeChat

Zhiying Zhang

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


At present, China ranks the first in the number of students studying abroad in the world, Chinese overseas students face the problems of balancing their online self-presentation on various social media platforms. Fewer studies make the empirical analysis to examine social media usage and its influencing factors from the perspective of cross-cultural adaption. When the contexts of individuals’ self-presentation expand from offline physical space to online social media, it may affect their online presentation process (motivations and online identities construction) on home social media and host social media. The purpose of research is to fill up the gap by analyzing the similarities and differences of online self-presentation process on Instagram and WeChat among Chinese overseas students in main study destination countries (U.S.A, U.K, Australia, Hong Kong and Macao regions). It applies survey and in-depth interviews as mixed-method to test a) the motivations of self-presentation on two social media platforms in the acculturation process; b) the impact of Chinese students' cultural acculturation on their online identity construction on different social media platforms; c) whether motivations of self-representation will influence their online identity construction on home and host social media.
When entering a new country, Chinese overseas students have complex factors to impact how to balance their own identity on home social media and develop new relationships on host social media. This is related to their selection about how to adapt to a new community as sojourners. Previous studies already proved the correlation between social media usage and acculturation aspects (Cleveland et al.,2009; Schwartz et al.,2010; Li & Chen, 2013; Raman & Harwood, 2016), this study firstly builds a research model to examine the relationship among acculturation process (need, attitude, level), motivations (spending time, entertainment, self-enhancement, self-expression, social interaction), online identities construction(micro/meso/macro). this research deeply investigates the correlation and regression relationship about these key variables among Chinese overseas students on WeChat and Instagram. The findings show that the acculturation process has a positive impact on motivations of self-presentation, which also can predict different levels of online identities construction. Among motivations, they showed the special patterns than previous studies, which help to improve the understanding of uses and gratification theory. By comparative analysis, this study uses paired t-test to show differences in acculturation aspects and self-presentation on the host and home social media. Chinese overseas students show stronger micro (personal identity) and macro identities construction (cultural and national identity) on Instagram than on WeChat, but they prefer to construct meso identity (role and social identity) on WeChat. Meanwhile, six multiple hierarchical regression analysis were conducted to test a contribution model to explain the relationship among acculturation aspects, motivations and online identities construction on host social media and home social media. The mediation analysis proved the effective three-stage model to expand the knowledge toward social media usage in polymedia environment, which further clearly identified the external acculturation factors and internal psychological factors during platform swinging choice in cross-cultural contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished Online - 2022
EventInternational Association for Media and Communication Research - Beijing, China
Duration: 11 Jul 202215 Jul 2022


ConferenceInternational Association for Media and Communication Research
Abbreviated titleIAMCR


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