Home on FB: National Identity on Caribbean Facebook Groups

Shaheed Nick Mohammed

Penn State Altoona


The present study examines the ‘groups’ area of the social networking site Facebook for discussion on the Caribbean nations of Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. The paper finds that local concerns dominate ‘local’ spaces even in cyberspace while diasporic and group identity notions were quite rare and limited to discussions involving migrant or diasporic members. Based on the present findings, the author argues that users in these countries adopt and adapt global networked technologies to serve their local needs. The findings suggest a case for greater appreciation of the role of new media networks in the domestic environments of small developing nations rather than a continuing focus on diasporic concerns.


Facebook, social networking, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean, diaspora, identity.

Home Virtual Home? A study of Caribbean groups on Facebook

As computer networks mature and diffuse more widely, they have become more important in developing nations (Bhatnagar, 2000; Furisch & Robins, 2002; Heeks, 2002; Mohammed & Thombre, 2004; Plaza, 2010; Wilson, 2004). The present paper examines Facebook groups associated with two Caribbean nations, Jamaica and the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with a view to evaluating their local versus global concerns. The author chose these two countries because they are the two largest and most influential territories in the English-speaking Caribbean (Figueredo & Argote-Freyre, 2008), the fact that several prior studies have examined Internet and other ICT use in these countries (Dunn, 1995; Miller & Slater, 2000; Miller & Horst, 2006) and the importance of their emigrant communities in major cities of Europe and the United States (Chamberlain, 2006; Plaza, 2010). Additionally, this study represents a continuation of an earlier effort examining one of the countries (Mohammed & Thombre, 2011).

Literature Review

Many studies of online activity in developing nations have focused on issues of diaspora, nationalism, and identity (Adams-Parham, 2004; Hongladarom, 1998; Mitra, 1997; Plaza, 2010). With the increasing diffusion and maturation of Internet-based technologies, some, however, some scholars have started to focus on local uses of the global networks and the possibilities of domestication of the global technologies (Macnamara (2010; Stewart, 2007).

Virtual Communities, Facebook and Social Networking

The Internet provides the distance-bridging capabilities of traditional mass media while also enabling users to communicate directly with one another (Ebner, Holzinger, & Maurer, 2007; Macnamara, 2010; Rheingold, 1993; Schultz, 2000; Wellman, 1997). These two factors have resulted in a continuing focus on the formation of virtual communities (Anyefru, 2008; Mitra, 1997; Tynes, 2007, Wellman, 1997). Social Networking Sites (SNS) such as MySpace and Facebook have become an important focus of community formation online today (Dalsgaard, 2008). Boyd and Ellison (2007) provide one of the most widely cited definition of Social Network Sites as:

…(W)eb-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system.

Since Facebook operates via the World Wide Web, it is inherently global in its reach. Despite this global scope, however, Facebook is also equally capable of enabling local networking (Kirkpatrick, 2010; Urista, Dong, & Day, 2009). In a study of the World Wide Web in its early stages of diffusion, Alexander Halavais (2000), pointed out that web pages tended to link to other sites in their own countries (when they were not linking to sites in the United States). Thus the World Wide Web and other emerging global technologies quickly became co-opted for local community uses (Whitaker, 2004; Postill, 2008) while also including transnational conversations (Davies & Crabtree, 2004).

Numerous studies (see, for example, Forsythe-Brown, 2006; Marshall, 1982; Mohammed, 1998; Thompson & Bauer, 2005) have firmly established the importance of outmigration from the Caribbean. At the most basic economic level, migrants’ success abroad often impacts their family members who remain in the home country by way of remittances and other forms of support (Marshall, 1982; Mohammed, 1998) and more broadly, migration has also provided the means for Caribbean nationals to expand education and employment opportunities beyond that provided in these small Caribbean nations. Yet despite the clear importance of migration (and, consequently, diaspora communities) to Caribbean society, the seemingly obvious focus on diasporic uses of ICTs may mask the importance of these technologies to local discourse.

Examinations of various electronic networks have scarcely been able to avoid reference to the dynamics of identity formation within virtually situated groups. Anderson’s (1991) ideas about nationhood and identity are particularly relevant in linking these virtual/conceptual identity processes with those of the real world. Perhaps most noteworthy here is Anderson’s elucidation of the role of information in modern processes of community formation. Building on his work in Imagined Communities (1991), Anderson has argued that today’s nationalisms are no longer necessarily only tied to geographical places. Rather, today’s long-distance nationalisms and the communities who adhere to them may result from shared ideas and aspirations spread through modern information technologies.

Networks and Social Capital

One of the dominant perspectives emphasizing the local importance of online social networks is that of “social capital” defined by Bourdieu and Wacquant (1992) as ‘‘the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition’’ (p. 14). This was the primary perspective in Wellman and Hampton’s (2001, 2003) studies of a broadband-wired Canadian suburb in which the online network was found to enhance existing communications and foster integration with community activities and needs. Numerous variations on the theme of social capital exist. Wellman, Quan-Haase, Witte, and Hampton (2001), for example, identified three types of social capital in online networks, namely 1) network capital or the relationships in a network that provide support, 2) participatory capital explained as shared activities that lead to joint achievements and 3) community commitment or a sense of belonging that prompts greater involvement. Ellison, Steinfeld, & Lampe, (2007) further extent the concept by distinguishing between 1)“bridging” social capital and 2)“bonding” social capital, based on the strength of the ties among network participants (after Putnam, 2000) and add 3)“maintained” social capital or the propensity to keep in touch with a network after disconnecting from it.

Applying the concept of social capital to the specific case of Facebook, Ellison, Steinfeld and Lampe (2007, p. 1161) determined that in a college setting “Facebook appears to play an important role in the process by which students form and maintain social capital.” Research utilizing the social capital perspective has focused on diasporic and migrant situations such the networks of diasporic Caribbean groups in London (Campbell & McLean, 2002), West Indian (Caribbean) migrants in New York (Waters, 1994) and the experience of “return migration” among Caribbean people (Potter, Conway, & Phillips, 2005).


Jamaica is the largest former British colonial island in the Caribbean and (arguably) best known of these territories internationally due to its history as a center of colonial activity (Figueredo & Argote-Freyre, 2008) as well as modern importance as a major international tourist destination. Jamaica’s international prominence is also a function of a broadly dispersed diaspora community which can be found represented in many urban centers of the United States and Europe (Forsythe-Brown, 2006). Thomas (2012) estimates the Jamaican-born immigrant population in the United States during the 2008/2009 period at 638,000 while US government census figures for 2010 indicate that approximately 965,000 persons in the United States claim Jamaican ancestry (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012). Within Jamaica, migration is an important reality of modern life in which many families depend on remittances from migrant relatives and many young Jamaicans aspire to migrate to urban centers of the United States and Canada. The government of Jamaica has expressed policy positions that explicitly reflect the importance of remittances, deportations and migrant rights (United Nations Development Program, 2012).

Website of Prime Minister of Jamaica

Figure 1. Website of Prime Minister of Jamaica

The international success of Jamaica’s reggae music and its international athletes also contribute to that nation’s international prominence despite its small size (Mordecai & Mordecai, 2001). World Bank statistics placed the population of Jamaica at approximately 2.7 million in 2008 with a Gross National Product (GNP) of approximately US$14,614 million dollars and per capita Gross National Income (GNI) of approximately US$4,800 in that year (The World Bank Group, 2010). Jamaica’s adult literacy rate stood at 85.9% in 2008 (The World Bank Group, 2010). Despite widespread poverty and a relatively low GNP per capita, Jamaica reports a 55.5% Internet penetration rate (Internet World Stats, 2010). Jamaica’s official language is English but much linguistic debate continues on the distinctions between Jamaican English and what is known as Jamaican Patois (or Jamaican Creole), a highly specialized dialect form (Beckford-Wassink, 1999; Cassidy, 2007).

For some (e.g. Johnson, 2008 and Price, 2003), Jamaica’s history of colonialism and slavery has created a legacy of contested identities. Despite a shared heritage and strong national cultural expressions, Jamaica often experiences division along class, economic and political lines. Johnson (2008, p. 173), for example, writes of “…the imaginative ways in which the Afro-Jamaican underclass navigate, negotiate and project their identities within the rigid and entrenched color, class, race and gender hierarchies which traditionally structure the distribution of power in post-colonial Jamaica.” Price (2003, p. 216) suggests that at least part of Jamaican identity can be understood in terms of ethnogenesis which Jones and Hill-Burnett (1982) and Sollors (1987) described as the development of new identities, conceived as resurgent cultural forms but ultimately based on ideas and consensus developed within modern groups.

Trinidad and Tobago

The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago (henceforth “Trinidad and Tobago”) is a single country comprising the two southernmost islands of the Caribbean chain that gained independence from Britain in 1963. Related to its tradition of oil production, this nation is probably best known internationally as the home of the “steeldrum” (or more properly “steelpan”). Compared to Jamaica, however, Trinidad and Tobago receives relatively little attention in the international community despite also being well-represented in metropolitan diasporas. The US government estimates the number of persons in the United States claiming ancestry from Trinidad and Tobago at approximately 200,000 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).

Flag of Trinidad and Tobago

Figure 2. Flag of Trinidad and Tobago

In 2008 Trinidad and Tobago’s population was 1.3 million and its Gross National Product (GNP) stood at US$24,145 million dollars (The World Bank Group, 2010). Adult literacy is estimated at 98.7%. Trinidad and Tobago’s official language is English but a strong local dialect form is widely used (Winer, 2009). Current Internet penetration in Trinidad and Tobago exceeds 39.5 percent (Internetstatsworld, 2010).

With a considerably more varied ethno-cultural makeup than Jamaica, the diverse and complex Trinidad and Tobago society comprises several historical and ethnic influences. As with Jamaica, the British brought Africans as slaves to Trinidad to work colonial plantations. However, after emancipation of the slaves, the British attempted to fill the vacuum on the sugar estates with large scale importation of indentured laborers from India (Lai, 1993; Northrup, 1995; Kale, 1995). The descendants of these groups along with smaller pockets of Europeans, Chinese and Arabs make up the two-island state’s multi-ethnic population (Erikson, 1992, Khan, 2004, Munasinghe, 2001).

Research Questions

The present study attempts to develop a greater understanding of the content and function of Facebook groups focused on Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago with particular attention to the local/global frames of reference. In order to ascertain basic properties of the content, the author posed Research Question 1a as follows:

RQ1a: What are the content and characteristics of Facebook groups featuring Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago?

Since two countries were being investigated, it was also necessary to attempt to describe differences in content and characteristics, leading to Research Question 1b:

RQ1b: What differences exist between content and characteristics of Facebook groups featuring Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica?

Prior research (see, for example, Halavais, 2000; Mohammed, 2004) suggests competing global and local tensions in the cyberspace expressions of small nations such as Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In order to evaluate these tensions in the Facebook group content, the author asked Research Question 2a:

RQ2a: What are the relative emphases on local and foreign concerns in the content of Jamaica and Trinidad/Tobago Facebook group discussions?

In some cases (though by no means all) it was possible to distinguish whether contributors to the group were completely domestic, completely diasporic/foreign or some combination of the two. With reference to the cases in which this determination could be made, the author addressed Research Question 2b:

RQ2b: How do diasporic and local discussions differ in focus and content on Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago Facebook groups?

The present study recognizes an emphasis in the literature on national identity and diasporic uses of ICTs as well as the social capital perspective which suggests that a sense of belonging (and bridging functions) would feature prominently in the SNS networks of study. The study was, therefore, concerned with the tension between identity and information content and posed Research Question 3a as follows:

RQ3a: What are the levels of identity and information content in the discussion posts of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago Facebook groups?

To determine whether the distinctions drawn between identity and information concerns were consistent across the two countries, it was also necessary to pose Research question 3b:

RQ3b: “Do Jamaican and Trinidad/Tobago Facebook groups differ in their levels of identity and information content?”

Persons who posted to these groups sometimes divulged their locations in the body of their message, or their locations were often discernible from their identity tag. Making use of these indicators (where available) the present study examined whether persons living in the home country and those living abroad demonstrated differences in their emphases on informational and identity issues posing Research question 3b as follows:

RQ3c: How do the local and diasporic group discussions differ in terms of identity and information content?”


The present investigation is based largely upon the well established communications research tradition of content analysis. This tradition has been successfully adapted to the analysis of web-based content (see, for example, Dominick, 1999; Halavais, 2000; Mohammed, 2004) and to the examination of social media content (Dalsgaard, 2008; Boyd and Ellison, 2007). Due to the broad array of content available on the web, analyses over the years have included simple counts of various content categories as well as in-depth readings of texts (Androutsopoulos, 2006; Anyefru, 2008; Atay, 2009; Mohammed and Thombre, 2005). The present analysis incorporates both approaches.


At the time of the present study, the Facebook system returned some 530 groups with the search term ‘Trinidad and Tobago’ and 560 groups with “Jamaica” in their descriptions or titles. The present sampling strategy aimed at surveying at least ten percent of the total groups and obtaining data on at least 100 discussions (an arbitrary target) from each country’s groups. The investigation sampled every tenth group after a random start. Within those groups the author sampled every fifth discussion topic from a random start. The entire contents of all posts in sampled discussions were considered in making coding decisions. Groups that were not public, featured no discussions, or were not relevant to the search terms were passed over and the next group chosen. Coding ceased once 100 discussions from each country were coded (in the case of Trinidad and Tobago, a second round of sampling was needed since the scheme fell short of the required 100 discussions in the first round). The final group toll was 56 for Jamaica (10 percent) and 71 groups (or approximately 13 percent) of all available groups with the required search terms for Trinidad and Tobago.

Facebook Fan Page for Trinidad and Tobago

Figure 3. Facebook Fan Page for Trinidad and Tobago


Posts were coded for scope of reference (local, regional, international) and location of poster (home country, USA, other), in part based on the approaches of earlier research (see for example, Byrne, 2008; Castelló, 2007; Tynes, 2007). The author also coded content into categories including the presence or absence of cultural concerns, migrant or intercultural concerns, business or advertising, the presence of sports or leisure issues, and reference to current affairs. Discussions were coded as being personal, community, national, regional, or international in scope with an additional category of ‘not relevant.’

Inter-coder reliability was determined by having an additional coder independently analyze the postings on each judgment-based coding item (fixed properties such as group statistics and names were not subject to coder discrepancy). The second coder was a Master’s level graduate with several years experience living in both the countries under examination and familiarity with their dialects. After several rounds of practice codings, inter-coder reliability statistics were calculated using the conservative Cohen’s Kappa measure (Cohen, 1960) which corrects for chance agreement. When Kappa values indicated substantial agreement (over 0.6) in all the categories we proceeded to independently code all the sampled posts. We then identified discrepancies in coding and resolved these by negotiation to achieve one hundred percent agreement.


The first research question (RQ1a) was concerned with the basic characteristics and content of the Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago Facebook groups. The 132 groups surveyed in the present study varied widely in membership levels, ranging from 4 members to 4,647 members with average membership of 1146 (SD=1173). The most frequently coded categories involved messages with leisure, recreation or entertainment as their focus, followed by domestic (home country) general news and current affairs. One of the acknowledged weaknesses of the content analysis approach is the influence of category choice and design on findings. Categories used here were influenced by and adapted from schemes utilized and themes expressed in prior research (Candan & Hunger, 2008; Mohammed, 2004; Fursich & Robins, 2002; Plaza, 2010). To clarify the complete set of categories utilized, a summary of all the category codings with their resulting frequencies is presented in Table 1.

Analysis revealed a wide range of discussions ranging from individuals expressing their love for the home country to sports, love and romance, crime, self-help and community groups. A discussion post in a group called ‘I love Trinidad and Tobago because...” read:

This is a country like no other. As a people we are unique. Wherever you go, you could always spot a Trini… And let's not forget our food, our culture, our music… and of course, our Carnival! (poster from Carenage, Trinidad)

Similarly, Jamaican groups featured posts such as those under the topic “wi a di bes!!” (we are the best) that proclaimed:

People envy us cus they kno we r better!!!!! Everybody loves us cuz we’re unique n da best there could be. (poster from Daytona Beach, Florida).

Approximately a third of discussions related in some way to entertainment or leisure activities including commercial dancehall (reggae) and soca parties/events. Typical of these was the announcement from a group called “RudeGyalz Entertainment (JA)”:

Rudegyalz Entertainment regrets to inform you that the event dubbed "Chocolate Dreams" is now "Chocolate Fantasy" because of legal reasons. thx 4 understanding! Chocolate Fantasy - July 18 @ 20 Holborn Rd. New Kingston.

TABLE 1. Content in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago Facebook Groups Discussions (N = 200)

Count Category


Trinidad /Tobago








Domestic general news/current affairs





Domestic culture/heritage/identity










Social cohesion/national pride/unity










Community/other announcements















Extra-cultural or migrant experience





Group maintenance/reconstruction





Crime and Security





Message/greeting ("shout out"/"big up")

























Percentages may total more than 100 as multiple codings were allowed.

The Trinidad and Tobago groups, while also concerned with leisure and entertainment, contained less direct promotion, tending instead towards reviews and discussions as in one post that suggested that a particular club in central Trinidad was “jus the hit” and others that posted links to Youtube videos and explored the lyrics of rock anthems. Some 25 percent of all discussions coded included explorations of local current affairs with 7 percent relating to crime. In the group “Trinidad and Tobago Crime Watch” with 4192 members, typical discussion posts on this group recounted personal or second-hand accounts of crimes and complaints about government inaction on the issue. Certain expected categories such as the “nostalgia” category (or what Plaza [2010] characterized as “cultural mourning” [after Ainslie, 1998]) or the greeting (in variants such as the “shout out” or “big up”) were relatively rare.

Within the predominant online shorthand forms, there was some use of local language featured in about 16 percent the discussion posts. Despite differences between Jamaican creole (patois) and Trinidad/Tobago dialect, both are clearly English variants with the Jamaican form being somewhat more stylized and distinctive. A typical informal post by a Trinidad poster using the vernacular form illustrates the stylized adaptation of the dialect to the online posting environment:

I ent know nah... (I don’t know) I does sleep in the day, wake in the night... (I sleep in the day and stay awake at night)

An illustrative exchange on a Jamaica group read had one poster asking “a wah gwan brejin” (What is going on my brother) to which another poster responds “mi dehyah” (I am here/okay).

Research Question 1b was concerned with the differences between content and characteristics of Facebook groups featuring Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. The data indicated that Jamaican and Trinidadian/Tobagonian groups demonstrated broad similarities across the content categories with significant differences emerging in only a few items. In the intercultural/migrant experience category 13 discussions were found in Trinidad and Tobago groups but only 3 in Jamaica groups (χ2[1, N = 200] = 6.8, p <.01). An example of this kind of post could be found from a contributor in New York City who makes reference to a popular Jamaican morning radio show theme from several decades ago:

I had a good laugh at myself this morning... Got off the train and singing "Gimme di mawning ride" (Give me the morning ride) as I ploughed through Grand Central, NYCity at 7:15 am...hehehe... how on earth that song popped into my head I don't know and to think that I am a grown/big woman... I guess I am out of Jamaica for decades but still can't get the Jamaican out of me...hehehehehe... I saw a few startled faces and smiles among those who were close enough to hear me...hehehhe. I love Jamaica...and guess what the love is unconditonal...mmmm mh!

In the news and current affairs category, Trinidad and Tobago discussions featured 35 instances to Jamaica’s 15(χ2[1, N = 200] = 10.7, p <.01), and in politics Trinidad and Tobago had 7 instances to Jamaica’s 1 (χ2[1, N = 200] = 4.7, p <.05). Sport featured in 14 of the Trinidad and Tobago discussions but only in 4 of those from Jamaica, (χ2[1, N = 200] = 6.1, p <.05). This was particularly because several sporting organizations in Trinidad and Tobago were encountered with groups during sampling. In discussions of tourism only 3 discussions from Trinidad and Tobago were observed while 16 from Jamaica were found (χ2[1, N = 200] = 9.8, p <.01).

Research question 2a asked: What are the relative emphases on local and foreign concerns in the content of Jamaica and Trinidad/Tobago Facebook group discussions? To address this question, the author coded for “geographical scope” in order to capture the frame of reference of the discussion material – that is to say – how geographically broad were the issues being raised? Possible values included Personal, Community, National, Regional and International. Some discussions (approximately 17 percent) did not have a clear geographical scope of reference and were coded as indeterminate. The “personal” scope would apply to discussion posts such as one from a group called “Trinidad” that appealed for information about soca (a genre of Trinidadian music):

(I) need to find some old-school soca like from the late 80s early 90s anybody know where I can find them?

An example of a post coded as regional could be found in discussions on a group entitled “Trinidadians that live abroad”:

Why do you all think T&T and other islands are underrated while islands like Jamaica, Barbados and the Bahamas are well known and on everyone's vacation list. Is it the media's fault and how they portray us?

Analysis indicated that 58.5 percent of discussions were local, community, or personal in scope while only 24.5 percent were regional or international in scope. Chi-square analysis indicated that the differences among the discernable categories of geographical scope overall (for both nations combined) were significant (χ2([4, N = 166] = 100.8, p <.01), yet in both cases, local discussions clearly dominated with approximately 47 percent of Jamaican and 53 percent of Trinidad and Tobago discussions being local in scope. Using the geographical scope scale as a continuum from personal to international, it was possible to compare the mean scope for both countries – though analysis revealed no significant difference.

With regard to geographical targets or specific mentions of countries, 46 percent of posts made some kind of reference (direct or indirect) to the home country (or a local community) only, while 6 percent referenced both the United States and the home country, and only 1 percent referenced the United States by itself. By way of comparison, 13.5 percent of discussions had some reference to third nations and 34 percent did not contain any information that could be construed as a geographical target reference. Chi-square analysis indicated that the differences among the assigned categories of geographical target were significant (χ2[3, N = 132] = 150.4, p <.01). The overall variations in these targets did not vary significantly between the two countries.

Research question 2b was more specifically concerned with how diasporic and local discussions differed in focus and content. To better understand the distribution of diasporic and local discussions, geographical targets were categorized into three groups – references to the home country only, references to both the home country and a foreign country, and reference to foreign countries only. These three categories were compared between two kinds of discussions - those with solely domestic participants and those including foreign or diasporic discussants (limited to 113 instances where clear data were available on both variables). The most frequent category of discussion was domestic topics among domestic posters (44 percent) which often included references to local news or entertainment events such as a when a poster from Montego Bay (Jamaica) wrote to promote an event:


The next most frequent category was discussion of domestic topics by mixed or foreign groups (26 percent). Chi-squared analysis demonstrated that the distribution of categories was significantly different from chance (χ2[5, N = 113] = 9.7, p <.01).

Research question 3a asked: What are the levels of identity and information content in the discussion posts of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago Facebook groups? The author developed two indices to measure identity-related content (including migrant and intercultural content, domestic culture, group formation and maintenance and national/cultural cohesion) versus information content (such as news/current affairs, community announcements, business/advertisement and crime). From the group “I Love Trinidad And Tobago Because…” a poster from Port-of-Spain (Trinidad) demonstrated typical identity claims and concerns:

It’s a blessed country and I enjoy our freedom cultures and our people the way they all contribute to live in unity one love one people.

Similarly, in the group “You’re probably from Jamaica if…” a poster from Brooklyn, New York raised cultural nostalgia in the following post:

Clarkes might be king of shoes in Jamaica today but do you remember some of the other shoe stores or shoes which use to be in style or big name stores?

From a group named “Trinidad and Tobago” another poster typified some of the more mundane concerns:

So I hear the Tobago Fest is back. I think it’s just another opportunity for lawlessness. The vendors make some extra money then what after that. What is the long term benefit of this?

Each discussion could score as many as 4 points (or as little as 0) on either index. Overall, these two measures, dubbed the identity index and the information index, bore a weak but significant inverse relationship to each other, r(200) = - 0.26, p <.01. Overall, news content tended to be higher (M = 0.6, SD = 0.7) among the discussions of both countries compared to identity-related discussions (M = 0.4, SD = 0.7).

Research question 3b asked: “Do Jamaican and Trinidad/Tobago Facebook groups differ in their levels of identity or information content?” To address this question, the identity and information scales were also analyzed for the differences between the two countries. Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago discussions did not differ significantly in terms of the identity index but did differ significantly on the information index with the Trinidad and Tobago posts averaging somewhat higher in information content than the Jamaican posts (t[198] = 2.4, p<.05).

The location of posters was determined by either geographical tags contained in their profiles or by the content of their posts. Multiple locations could be encoded within each discussion since posters in different countries could be involved. In many cases, however, the locations could not be determined and were coded as indeterminate. In the 154 postings that did allow poster locations to be determined, 96 (68 percent) were domestic only (i.e. only posters from Jamaica or Trinidad and Tobago) while 58 (32 percent) featured either foreign posters or a mix of foreign and domestic posters.

This allowed for comparison of identity and information related content between the domestic and the foreign/mixed discussions as contemplated in Research Question 3c which asked: “How do the local and diasporic group discussions differ in terms of identity and information content?” Analysis indicated that, overall, identity content was significantly higher in foreign/mixed discussions than in domestic-only discussions. The following recounts a typical exchange of this type between posters in Canada and the United States:

Poster 1: Hooray for KC! The first sip takes me all the way back to my childhood. Only another Jcn would understand. Didn't know about the pepper thing, but will bear it in mind. Meat loaf is similar to patties. It has a crust and ground beef filling, but it does not have the curry in the crust or filling as patties do. It is nice all the same, but will never replace the patty.
Poster 2: ok I had meatloaf before,you right cant replace patties....But stop little...you know say patty come now in different style...what a ting.. calla-loo patty ,jerk patty,curry patty,fish patty...what have you heard try any other recent,how was it?

Domestic-only discussions averaged .37 on the scale (which allowed scores from 0 to 4) while foreign/mixed groups averaged a significantly higher .75 (t(45.7) = -2, p<.05). For information discussions, the two locations did not differ significantly.


As in earlier investigations (Halavais, 2000; Mohammed 2004), the present study finds strong local emphases though users were participating in a global medium. This finding was true of both nations analyzed and broadly in keeping with prior research indicating a propensity towards local use of the global technologies (Androutsopoulos, 2006; Halavais, 2000; Mohammed & Thombre, 2011; Stewart, 2007). Third country references were relatively common, in part due to the popularity of international sports in the discussions. Participants stressed local references to local events – especially those involving parties and music events. Thus despite their global scope and potential the Facebook groups studied here function more as community notice boards than as beacons of nationalism and identity. Only a small percentage of posts utilized local dialects – surprising because these dialects are generally more widely spoken than standard English forms in both countries. Yet the vernacular forms, while common in spoken discourse, are generally less likely to be written down and in the context of Facebook groups probably likely to be replaced by cyber-shorthand.

Differences in content between the two countries were easily explained in some case such as the emphasis on tourism which constitutes a large portion of Jamaica’s economy but fairly little of Trinidad and Tobago’s or the discrepancy in sports discussions resulting from the fact that many of the local sporting organizations in Trinidad and Tobago had taken to making announcements on their Facebook groups. Other discrepancies such as the disparity in extra-cultural or migrant experiences are somewhat more difficult to explain – particularly since there were far more mentions in Trinidad and Tobago groups than in Jamaican groups. This may indicate that these issues bear more discussion among Trinidad and Tobago contributors (perhaps related to more recent initiations of migratory patterns associated with crime and changing economics in recent decades) but are more settled issues in the Jamaican groups with their somewhat greater scale and more established migrant heritage.

The discussions examined here also did not generally indicate strong identity-based content, except from persons who were abroad and, even then, nostalgia and shared memories were only minor components of the discussions. Notably, this idea of shared memories was equally evident among those who were based in the home countries and did not always focus on grand philosophical ideas about identity but rather on its mundane constituents such as discussions of old times in the home country. For both countries studied here, the findings were consistent with the overall thrust of Anderson’s (1991) ideas about nationalisms based on communicative constructions.

Additionally, the fact that discussions among foreign groups were more likely to have discussions about identity or nationalistic issues, supports Anderson’s (1992, 2005) notion that displaced and diasporic group members are more prone to express nationalism and identity concerns. This finding also has implications for social capital analysis of these networks. Particularly relevant here is the bridging/bonding distinction raised by Ellison, Steinfeld, & Lampe (2007) which may be supported by the presence of greater identity content in foreign/mixed groups since these are likely to be sharing weaker ties than domestic posters who, rather than bridging, bond in common experiences such as discussions of sports or nightclubs.

The two countries studied did not differ significantly in terms of identity expressions. However, the difference in levels of information-focused material indicates that there are variations in each situation in how the technologies are employed – such as the use of Facebook groups by a wider cross section of local organizations in Trinidad and Tobago and the more frequent use of Facebook groups for commercial party promotion in Jamaica.

The present findings suggest that new media networks continue to provide global reach but are increasingly utilized locally. While migrants may use the global reach of the technologies to reconnect with home, those at home are equally likely to organize community events or simply socialize using the same media. As global information technologies spread more widely and mature, diverse users craft uses that directly suit their local needs, challenging prevailing ideas about the global or diasporic character of network usage.

Limitations and further study

This study was limited to examining manifest content expressed in postings online. Future investigation may undertake an ethnographic approach to examine user motivations alongside discussion content. Such an approach would allow deeper interrogation of motives and meanings than was possible through examination of content only.

The two countries studied here have unique properties of size and development, vibrant diaspora communities as well as variants of English that were accessible to the author. The findings here may be tested in a wider variety of nations including those from other regions and with different technological, economic and social situations. Since several other social networking sites exist and enjoy different levels of regional popularity, the study may be repeated for non-Facebook networks.


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Shaheed Nick Mohammed earned his PhD degree from the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque. He is Associate Professor of Communication at Penn State Altoona and author of Communication, Globalization and Culture (2011) and The (Dis)information Age (2012). His research focuses on the various intersections of communication technology, culture and global forces.

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