Choosing a Social Media Platform: Genre and Social Ties in Urban Malaysia

Julian Hopkins, Chris Hooi Koon Tan


As mediated interactions using social media and messaging apps become integral to many people’s lives, this article examines how urban Malaysians choose between different platforms when communicating with family, friends, and colleagues in everyday life. The concepts of “media switching” and “scalable socialities” offer explanations for platform selection based on social meaning and genre. We build on these using quantitative and qualitative data from an online survey (n = 279) and in-depth interviews that showed a predominant use of WhatsApp, while Facebook was more significant for weak ties. In the workplace, an age gap showed over-30s preferring email whereas under-30s preferred WhatsApp, demonstrating processes of remediation. We discuss how different platforms are associated with particular communicative goals and genres relating to social groups. We extend scalable socialities, suggesting that in addition to continuums of privacy and publicness, users also move between different communication platforms based on strength of ties and genre practice.


social media, messaging, Malaysia, genre, social ties, scalable socialities, media switching

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