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Title: Social media and distant others : the mediation of distant suffering among Chinese youth
Author: Tong, Xiyan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7223 9088
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2017
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With the popularity of the internet and mobile intelligent terminals, more and more people are becoming social media users across the globe. China is no exception in this case, Chinese youth in particular. Social media could turn distant others into our virtual neighbours. These mediated interactions are carried out in mediapolis: a moral space where the audiences connect with the otherwise invisible others during the process of mediation. After being integrated into users’ daily lives, social media could create new ways of living and new kinds of social relationships, among which is the users’ acknowledgement of distant suffering. Media witnessing and media remembering are two media practices employed to explore how audiences talk about distant suffering and position themselves with regard to it in this thesis. Through focus group discussions among Chinese university students, the empirical data showed how Chinese young people witness and remember distant suffering through social media. Young social media users position themselves as witnesses of news of distant suffering in a detached way: there is a rationalised detachment from the suffering events; they showed no scepticism towards online distant suffering reports and their hospitality towards the distant sufferer is conditional on the immediacy between them. The investigation of media remembering demonstrates the construction of a moral hierarchy in the way in which young social media users remember distant suffering: some incidents of suffering are banal, some are iconic, and some others are meaningful in their memories. Young social media users’ actions towards distant suffering including reposting, discussion and donation. While for their inactions, they have varied justifications, which involve their mistrust about online information and charitable organisations, their powerlessness as students, and compassion fatigue as a result of seeing too many similar events, and the existence of the national disaster-relief mechanism. Their opinions towards whether to accept the concept of cosmopolitanism are various. There are several new features in the mediation of distant suffering through social media compared with traditional mass media. This study contributes to the growing research on the mediation of distant suffering. It extends the range of studies on the mediation of distant suffering from the West to the East, it broadens the research area from mass communication media to social media, and it answers the empirical question about the ways of the social media users’ engagement with distant suffering.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology