Renren vs. Facebook

For this weeks blog post I focused on social media sites of the United States and their parallels in China. Being that I use Facebook so much I decided to look into Renren, which has been referred to as “the Facebook of China.” While at first the two sites seem extremely similar, according to this blog post on Echouser there are actually many differences in function and usage.

Renren was founded in 2005 by a Chinese graduate of Delaware University. It started small, almost exclusively used in a few university crowds in Beijing, but by February of 2011 it had reached 160 million users. Similar to and inspired by Facebook, the Renren interface looks strikingly similar to Facebooks. However, the way Renren approaches social media and encourages networking amongst its users is quite different.

According to the author of this article, Renren is used more for focusing on the users close group of friends, while Facebook focuses more on feeds and events than Facebook friends. In short, Renren is more about the “who” and Facebook is more about the “what.”

The author supports this view with a few examples. Firstly, Renren has a special attention section where users are able to focus more on the activity of close friends. However, on Facebook there is the Top News section which is about showcasing events and promoting popular activity, rather than focusing on activity of certain people. Secondly, Renren has friend recommendations and birthday reminders, while Facebook does not. This shows there is more emphasis on events and a less personal feed on Facebook than Renren.

This argument from the author peaked my interest the most because I am not so sure I agree with it. While I do not use Renren so I cannot speak comparatively, I do know that my experience with Facebook is very personal and focuses on my close friends. I recognize that there is a large amount of advertisement and event promotion on Facebook, but I’m still not convinced by the authors argument.

In the context of this class I think the difference in usage will play a role in the use of these social media sites in information communication. Being that Renren is arguably more useful for communicating with close friends, it would be a better site for contacting close friends during a disaster while Facebook is used not only for contacting others but also largely for sharing general information about disasters. However, the lesser amount of information sharing on Renren could be attributable to the newness of the site and lower level of financial income to improve the site. In the future as the company grows it could become wealthier and capable of a greater capacity of information sharing like Facebook does. Also, the article says Renren has a journal log section that Facebook does not, which could provide a place for people to express their views and feelings, perhaps about politics or current events, whereas Facebook discussions exist almost exclusively on status updates. Perhaps more informative dialogue and communication could exist with an app like this on Facebook.

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