Cultural differences in social media use, privacy, and self-disclosure : research report on a multicultural study

Sabine Trepte*, P. K. Masur

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Book / ReportReportAcademic


This research report presents comparative results from five nations (United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and China) with regard to social media use, self-disclosure, privacy perceptions and attitudes, and privacy behavior in online environments. The data stemmed from an online survey that was conducted from November, 2011, to December, 2011. Across all five nations, N = 1,800 participants completed the survey. The findings suggest that a broad differentiation between Western and Eastern cultures only partly accounted for differences in social media use and privacy behavior. Rather, the results of this report suggest that European countries (United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands) share similar privacy perceptions and show similar behavioral patterns. Non-European cultures (the USA and China) on the other hand, use social media differently. Participants from European countries had generally smaller audiences on social network sites and microblogging platforms, tended to limit the visibility of their postings and profile information more, and used more privacy settings to safeguard their privacy. In particular, German social media users seemed to be guarded, protective, and rather reluctant to participate in online communication. Users from the US, on the other hand, rated privacy-related behavior as less risky and were hence less likely to imply sophisticated privacy strategies. Apart from these findings, the report also shows that there are more commonalities than differences. People from all five countries think that it is important to protect privacy. Most users consciously decides what to share and what not to share. Accordingly, social media users do not always share intimate and detailed information about their lives.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • privacy
  • self-disclosure


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