The Two Faces of Social Networking - A Comparative Analysis of Facebook and Renren

Watch the video presentation by Almond Aguila and Iris Yin about Facebook and Renren

22 March 2012

Almond Aguila, an interdisciplinary PhD student in Communications and Technology and Education at the University of Alberta and Iris Yin, PhD student in Secondary Education at the University of Alberta presented at the February 2012 Education Technology Fair.

Watch the video presentation


While the world immediately thinks of Facebook at the mere mention of social networking, little is known of Renren outside the Chinese-speaking community. Our presentation traces the similarities and differences of the two popular platforms. Reputed to be China's Facebook, Renren followed the footsteps of its American model by emerging as a student networking system before exploding into mainstream use. Our analysis takes into consideration each one's history, aims, popularity, common uses and design. Using screenshots, we offer a side-by-side view of social networking as it has never been seen before.

Aside from studying the aesthetic and technical elements, we also go deeper into social networking by discussing the issues of surveillance and censorship. What roles do surveillance and censorship play on Facebook and Renren? How much freedom and control do social networkers truly have on these websites? What impact do the political, ideological and cultural systems from which they came from have on their values, contents, structure and performance? Of interest is how our own backgrounds as scholars and social networkers filter the way we look at Facebook and Renren. One of us (Almond Aguila), who is from Philippines, knows no other way of being the democratic way of life. She has been active on Facebook since 2008. The other (Iris Yin) was born and raised in mainland China but is now studying in Canada. She has been active on Renren since 2007 and Facebook since 2011.