New Paper on Social Media and Culture

Does culture impact social media use? Our resent study indicates that it does. More specifically, cultural values seem to be related to different hashtagging styles.

Our recent study has been accepted in the journal “Behaviour & Information Technology” (ABDC ranked: A). It assesses the relationship between cultural values and the styles of hashtags people use. It is related to another study on hashtags we recently published in Psychology & Marketing. However, this study looks more on the types of hashtags (rather than the motivations) and links it to Hofstede’s cultural values. These cultural dimensions are:

  • Power Distance
    The extent to which the less powerful members of institutions and organizations expect and accept that power is distributed unequally.
  • Individualism/ Collectivism
    Individualism pertains to societies in which the ties between individuals are loose: everyone is expected to look after him-or herself and his or her immediate family. Collectivism pertains to societies in which people from birth onward are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, which throughout people’s lifetime continue to protect them in exchange for unquestioning loyalty.
  • Masculinity-Femininity
    High masculinity refers to placing a high value on things, power, and assertiveness; emotional gender roles are clearly distinct. Feminine cultures are cultures where people, quality of life, and nurturance prevail and emotional gender roles overlap.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance
    The extent to which the members of a culture feel threatened by ambiguous or unknown situations.



Many social media users include #-signs before particular terms on social media – which is termed hashtagging. Recent research indicates that people tend to use the pound key for uncommon words, including “artistic” words that are unlikely to serve functional purposes, and that cultural differences in hashtagging styles exist. The current study examines characteristics of hashtags and the impact of individual cultural values on hashtagging behavior. Findings reveal four dimensions of hashtags, concluding that hashtags can be inspirational, structural, entertaining, and artistic. Second, findings show that hashtags are used to structure content equally independent of cultural values. However, inspirational hashtags are common among users with collectivistic, uncertainty avoidant, and masculine cultural values. Moreover, collectivistic and masculine values are also associated with artistic hashtags – whereas uncertainty avoidance is related to entertaining hashtags. In addition, findings show that cultural values associated with power distance relate to a higher hashtagging intensity.



Sheldon, P.; Herzfeldt, E.; Rauschnabel, P.A. (2019). Culture and Social Media: The relationship between cultural values and hashtagging styles. Behaviour & Information Technology, forthcoming.

Rauschnabel, P.A., Sheldon, P.; Herzfeldt, E. (2019). What motivates users to hashtag on social media?.” Psychology & Marketing, 36(5), pp. 473-488.

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