Might Online Media Disrupt Acculturation?

After reading Felipe Korzenny's and Lee Vann's column about Hispanics' adoption of social media relative to other ethnic demographics, a question came to mind: how will social networks affect the acculturation process among Hispanics? The ability to keep in touch with family and friends from countries-of-origin via email, Skype and online newspapers back home makes it easier than ever. Travel costs are at historic lows. And computer and mobile phone prices fall every year.

Combine these questions with the fact that more communities like Miami and McAllen, Texas, are reaching the tipping point of having a majority of Spanish speakers, and the question about how online media affects acculturation deserves some consideration. Six experts discuss this issue, after which you are invited to leave your comments, links to research and additional questions below.



"Latinos have strong ties to their heritage and country of origin," says Alvaro Palacios, the Regional Director of Business Development at Terra. "According to Pew's Latino Youth report, only 33% of second-generation Hispanics claims to be American first, while 41% still prefer to name their country of origin. Even with third-generation Hispanics, only 50% consider themselves American first."

"The Internet is definitely helping with the acculturation process among U.S. Hispanics, with new generations consuming English content on local sites and being almost 100% integrated into the U.S. culture," says Marta Martinez, the CEO of StarMedia. "On the other hand, a large percentage of Hispanics consume Spanish sites here and from their country of origin. What the Internet brings to all of us is diversity and choice."

"Being able to understand the culture and institutions in the country they are immigrating to will continue to be important," says Tamara Barber, an analyst at Forrester Research. "But, these different avenues of connecting back home will certainly encourage stronger ties to their countries of origin and could develop into a phenomenon that we see among Hispanic youth, where they are very truly straddling two cultures. The beauty of social media in a cross-border context is that it can actually help immigrants develop more of a bicultural existence."

"Digital technologies have made it much easier to stay in touch with friends and family from wherever they may be; however, I tend to look at acculturation as a choice," says Christopher Stanley, CEO of Alcance Media Group. "If you live in a country for numerous years and need to live and work in the language, "acculturation" will happen. As a U.S. native living in Chile, I could have easily chosen to surround myself with other 'gringos' living abroad. However, I made the effort to learn the language and culture. Technology may make it more comfortable to stay in a bubble, but it ultimately is a choice."

"Online Hispanics (excluding mobile) are primarily English-language dominant, meaning they are either U.S. born (second-generation), or came to the U.S. at an early age," says Maria Lopez-Knowles, SVP of MRM Worldwide. "They also have the economic means to afford the technology that allows them to stay 'connected,' which in and of itself assumes some level of acculturation. Online Hispanics would have to be living in a virtual existence practically 24/7 for this to happen. Regardless of how connected they are, they still live in the U.S. So while I don't think it limits the acculturation process, I believe that it impacts and reinforces the retro-acculturation process."

"Acculturation by definition is not assimilation; it is the layering of native cultural experiences into a new cultural context," says Kevin Conroy, president of Univision Interactive Media. "In other words, layering in 'home country' experiences over 'U.S.' experiences. This is the reason the use of the Spanish-language is still growing (77% speak Spanish at home) -- Hispanics have not assimilated and lost their language identity, instead they have maintained their passion for their language and culture and woven them into their U.S. Hispanic experience. To that end, the Web brings value to this dynamic; it enables U.S. Hispanics to more easily stay current with their home country and cultural passion points while remaining very much members of the U.S. Hispanic community."

What do you think?

3 comments about "Might Online Media Disrupt Acculturation? ".
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  1. Jose Huitron, February 25, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.

    Acculturation definitely has an impact on the type and level of participation in online media. However, a recent study shows that Hispanic dominant segments actually adopt technology quicker than their bi-cultural and U.S. dominant counterparts.

  2. Jackie Bird from Redbean Society, LLC, February 25, 2010 at 1:41 p.m.

    If anything, online media, social networks and other internet-based communications will help accelerate the acculturation process because they provide a venue for exchange not only with home-countries but with many more Latinos and other ethnicities across the U.S. This, in turn, is generating influences across cultures which we call Cultural Currents. For more on the dynamics of acculturation and cultural currents you can visit

  3. Lazaro Fuentes from Hip Venture Company, Inc., February 25, 2010 at 1:55 p.m.

    I think that the notion of acculturation the way it is promoted in general is based on insecurity that is weakening to all communities, like the weakening a tree, by disconnecting it from its roots.

    I believe further that this weakening is reinforced by notions that are promoted innocently throughout our school systems. In the case of the Hispanic community, if children are taught anything at all about it, it is a history of Hispanic injury to its fellow man, whether as the BAD conquistador, exploiter or eradicator of millions of natives, or as the G-dless people who made human sacrifices.

    The interesting thing is that side by side, children are also taught of an ironic "blazing new trails" by an American Pioneer ideal. How does a child interpret this “story?” How different would that child be if instead they too were pioneers, or the builders of hundreds of pyramids, advanced mathematics and otherwise? [I am not advocating either point of view. I am simply pointing something out that is important and posing the question.]

    I think that we may be underestimating the damage that this notion of acculturation has on Hispanics and non-Hispanic alike. More so, I wonder about the damage it does to true integration, which happens when we understand each other and are comfortable with each other. I do not have to share your history to be comfortable with you, for example.

    As regards the internet, we need be careful not to confuse becoming educated [which is what happens when you have unbiased access to information - like in the internet] with being acculturated. Being smart does not equal being acculturated. That is a big confusion I see here and in general.

    Lastly, I believe that the argument and notion that every other immigrant group became acculturated when they arrived in the US, so Hispanics should too, is a wrong one fundamentally. I do not think that the other immigrant groups would have been so quick to disconnect from their roots and identities if they too had the access to the communication tools we have.

    The United States and we as Hispanic-Americans need to come to the realization that our roots to Latin America are a very positive for the US and global economies that we are a part of. We all have in us the cultural capability to be individual economic ambassadors by the way we connect to our homes of origin from our new home and increase trade and prosperity within both.

    I will add that it is important who writes your history. I have always focused on taking control of our story and making sure that how we tell it shows the contribution, achievements and positive strengths that we or our parents and grandparents brought them from our countries - not just for our sake - but so the rest in our community can understand the full story of their new neighbors and country/men and women.

    I am the CEO of a product and brand development company that is developing a Latin-themed brand for tween girls called Hip Chicas at to fill the need for culturally relevant tween girl brands.

    Hip Chicas will be anchored by a social game where girls will go on quests through many of the fantastic places and cities throughout Latin America and the US and help improve them. Our objective is to strengthen the cultural, gender and social identity of all girls, while building a brand that more fully represents tween girl's cultural reality and values.

    That was my gratuitous plug. This took up a chunk of my day, but I am happy for the opportunity o throw it out int the world.

    Lazaro Fuentes
    Hip Venture Company
    [Help Improve the Planet - That's H.I.P.]

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