Importance of Internet Communities: A Comparison between the West and the East

Lots of Laptops by Chris Radcliff is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.


Fundamentally, Internet community is an online communication space that gathers
social groups with shared interests, cultural preferences and values, and has a specific
set of norms and needs, such as online community participation, vetting and
management (Haythornthwaite, 2007). In current digital realm, Internet communities
are indispensable for identifying cultural, social and political trends. Among these,
both the West and the East occupy unique positions in the Internet world. By delving
into their particularities, people can understand the vastness and richness of global
virtual communities.

Internet Communities in the West and East

Western internet communities have flourished thanks to platforms such as Facebook,
Twitter, and Instagram, which were originally rooted in the United States. Taking
Facebook as an example, Facebook is now one of the most popular social platforms in
the world, with nearly 2.2 billion active users worldwide as of 2019, and is changing
the way hundreds of millions of people connect with each other and share information
(Mosquera et al., 2019). The surge in Facebook users can be attributed to its universal
appeal and adaptability, with users needing only a valid email address to sign up and
posting tweets that can be quickly synchronized to Twitter. Facebook both shapes and
reflects modern cultural values and trends, with a core mission of “connecting every
person in the world
” (Lauer, 2021). This drive for global connectivity emphasizes the
value of building relationships, networking and maintaining relationships with family,
friends or colleagues. It also expands the user base, bringing existing users closer
together and connecting even more people who would not otherwise be connected,
which directly drives advertising revenue, Facebook’s primary model for capturing
(Martin & Dwyer, 2019).

Boris on Weibo” by renaissancechambara is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Weibo, often referred to as “China’s Twitter” but with more monthly active users than
Twitter, which is an application that shares, disseminates and accesses information
based on user relationships (Wu et al., 2021). With platforms such as Twitter and
Facebook blocked in China, Weibo has provided a space for Chinese netizen to share
updates, news and personal stories. Unlike Twitter, Weibo is not limited to text. Users
can share videos, photos, and even live streams, making it a multimedia platform. In
2013, some Chinese Internet media outlets began to partner with e-commerce giants
such as Alibaba, which allowed users to shop while socializing, merging
consumerism with social media trends (Shen, 2016). Weibo is more in line with
Chinese cultural values that emphasize collective harmony, user participation and
discussions that resonate with collective emotions, especially during national events
or crises. Like Twitter in the West, Weibo is the platform of choice for real-time
updates. From natural disasters to celebrity news, it is the center of instant
information and embodies the modern value of rapid news consumption.

Social and Emotional Benefits: A Comparison

The rise of Internet communities in Western societies reflects a profound emphasis on
individualism, self-expression and personal branding. On platforms such as Twitter or
Instagram, users place a strong emphasis on personal branding and often publish their
personal thoughts and statements. For example, former U.S. President Donald Trump
regularly makes a series of statements on Twitter. Consumers perceive brands as
reflecting their true inner selves and enhancing the extent of their social selves. The
study recognizes that consumers engage in different forms of self-expression through
the brands they follow on social media (De Vries et al., 2017). Western social
networks are a very visible form of self-presentation where consumers can express
themselves more freely, which emphasizes the individualistic spirit of the West, but
this can lead to social fragmentation and polarization.

In contrast, the Eastern online space, weibo, focuses more on community discussion
and group identity. Weibo emphasizes official accounts of cities, provinces, and
institutions as public centers of information and discussion, and its use in disaster
management has already been demonstrated
(Wu et al., 2021). During the Covid-19,
each city set up a discussion forum on Weibo for the local outbreak, updating the
areas affected by the outbreak everyday and creating links for donating supplies. In
addition, fan culture is prevalent on Weibo, with fans creating “super group” for their
idols and flooding the comment section of their idols’ post, reflecting the cohesion and
unity of fans, but this has also led to the emergence of group cyber-violence and
rumor-mongering, which influence the judgment of many Internet users. Despite the
differences between East and West, both cultures can find solace online, and sites
such as Reddit or Baidu Post provide mental health forums, support groups, and
global camaraderie, reflecting the universal human desire for connection and

CNN. (2023, September 15). Twitter turned over messages from Trump’s account to special counsel [Video]. YouTube.

Economic Impacts

Western Internet communities, from social media platforms to forums such as Reddit,
have dramatically changed Western economies. Traditional media outlets struggled to
cope with the democratization of commenting, changes in advertising revenues, and
the immediacy of distributing news through social media, which led to a financial
(Mosquera et al., 2019). Additionally, the online aggregation of users can
greatly affect the stock market, as evidenced by events such as the spike in the
GameStop stock market. While these communities have spurred the growth of
industries such as e-commerce and influence marketing, they have also challenged
traditional business models, forcing them to adapt or disappear. As the influence of
these digital communities grows, calls for stricter regulation are increasing,
underscoring their far-reaching economic impact.

The rapid rise of China’s Internet community has greatly boosted the country’s
economy. Innovations by giants such as Alibaba and Tencent have revolutionized
industries, reshaped consumer behavior, and stimulated the gig economy. However,
this rapid digitization also poses regulatory challenges as the government grapples
with data privacy and monopoly issues (Shen, 2016). In essence, China’s digital
transformation, based on the Internet community, offers both great opportunities and

Political and Social Activism

Tarleton Gillespie(2019) reveals the impact of mainstream Western platforms on
global discourse. Platforms amplify content that generates engagement, which often
leads to the rise of echo chambers, where users are exposed to more and more extreme
content that is contrary to their beliefs. Such dynamics can lead to the polarization of
Western political discourse. While they can amplify certain political narratives, they
can also suppress or marginalize others, raising concerns about transparency and
accountability. As such, these platforms play a pivotal role in shaping Western
politics, highlighting the complex relationship between online discourse and realworld political dynamics (Gillespie, 2019).

In China’s unique digital ecosystem, the government has struck a balance between
fostering local Internet platforms and containing their Western counterparts. This
strategy both centralizes discourse and suppresses dissent. While Internet
communities such as Weibo have cooperated with state censorship regulations, the
public’s innovative strategies to bypass restrictions (VPN) hint at underlying tensions.
While the state uses the Internet for surveillance and propaganda, it also gathers
valuable information on public sentiment. The tightening of Internet controls under
the leadership of the state president further highlights the intertwined relationship
between China’s online communities and political dynamics (Shen, 2016).


In conclusion, the development and dynamics of Internet communities highlight the
multifaceted nature of the globalized world. Internet communities are important
platforms for knowledge exchange, social and cultural interaction as well as economic
, proving their indispensable place in current world. East-West Internet communities play a crucial role in shaping global discourse by facilitating cross cultural dialogues and highlighting regional specificities. Along with this influence, however, comes a responsibility for each of us to ensure that they remain authentic, promote inclusivity, and critically engage diverse voices. Recognizing the importance of these communities goes beyond acknowledging their existence to understanding their potential to critically shape global narratives.

Reference list

De Vries, L., Peluso, A. M., Romani, S., Leeflang, P. S. H., & Marcati, A. (2017). Explaining consumer brand-related activities on social media: An investigation of the different roles of self-expression and socializing motivations. Computers in Human Behavior, 75, 272–282.

Wu, K., Wu, J., Ding, W., & Tang, R. (2021b). Extracting disaster information based on Sina Weibo in China: A case study of the 2019 Typhoon Lekima. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 60, 102304.

Shen, H. (2016). China and global internet governance: toward an alternative analytical framework. Chinese Journal of Communication, 9(3), 304–324.

Lauer, D. (2021). Facebook’s ethical failures are not accidental; they are part of the business model. AI And Ethics, 1(4), 395–403.

Mosquera, R., Odunowo, M., McNamara, T., Guo, X., & Petrie, R. (2019). The economic effects of Facebook. Experimental Economics, 23(2), 575–602.

Martin, F., & Dwyer, T. (2019). Sharing news online. In Springer eBooks.

Gillespie, T. (2019). Custodians of the internet. In Yale University Press eBooks.

Haythornthwaite, C. (2007). Social networks and online community. The Oxford handbook of Internet psychology, 121-137.

Importance of Internet Communities: A Comparison between the West and the East © 2023 by Yiming QIU is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

Be the first to comment on "Importance of Internet Communities: A Comparison between the West and the East"

Leave a comment