Understanding Digital Generations: Social Media Habitus, Memetic Engagements, and Digital Social Inequalities in China

Qingqing Hu, Pauline Hope Cheong


Although age is commonly identified as a key explanatory variable in Internet adoption and use, digital divide studies have not fully explicated why generational differences are associated with disparities in social media use. This study explores how age can function in constituting a distinctive habitus in China. A comparative analysis on Chinese born in the 1970s and 1990s—cohorts identified in prior literature as having distinct sociotechnical educational experiences in China—was conducted on 429 Chinese Internet users. Results indicated significant differences among the 1970s-born and 1990s-born cohorts in their online experiences, exposure, and education, which, in turn, were associated with differences in their social media habituses, capital-enhancing activities, and memetic engagements. Findings here act as an empirical reference to illustrate connections between age differences, digital capital, and habitus, as well as contribute to deepened understandings of how culture influences global digital inequalities.


digital social inequality, digital generation, social media use, social media habitus, Bourdieusian approach

Full Text: