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Ever wondered why some people choose to use Facebook while others choose MySpace?  People will approach media with all different expectations, uses, and gratifications…but what drives these?

Last week in my Social Media Networking class, we learned about how race and more importantly, one’s background, is often a key driver of how young users approach media.  A simple example of this may be the difference between a Wall Street banker reading the New York Times versus a high school student reading the New York Times – while the banker is probably reading it to inform them on how that day’s current events will affect the markets, the student is perhaps reading it as a homework assignment.  Both the student and the banker are doing the exact same thing, but each approaches the media with different expectations and uses.

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Photo courtesy of Flickr user Robert Scoble.

The same goes for social networks – one’s social class, experiences, race, and background undoubtedly shape how they experience social media and which social networks they prefer to be a part of.  Studies have found that teens from less-privileged background including blacks and latinos tend to lean towards using MySpace whereas university-bound privileged teens, which tended to include whites and Asians, leaned towards Facebook.  Coming from two completely different backgrounds, these teens’ decisions on which social network to choose are completely dependent on their lifestyle and background.  Perhaps it is style preference, or even the fact that university-bound teens want to be in a network where they can see who attends their same school.  What it is not, however, racial segregation on the Internet.  I am still a believer that the Internet can eradicate inequality – everyone is given equal opportunities to engage in the exact same activities.  It is not society’s fault if they choose to leave up the digital fences that keep everyone divided on the Internet.  The Internet presents the possibility of a raceless space – everyone now just needs to take advantage of that.

 

Featured image photo courtesy of Flickr user Sean MacEntee.

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One thought on “Internet as a raceless space

  1. While I think that you’ve brought up an important issue that exists in online communities, I feel like this doesn’t take into consideration many of the realities that exist in racial issues today, both offline and online. From what I’ve observed online, interactions on social media mainly mirror interactions that occur offline, with the caveat that many people lose their filter when they are hidden behind a computer screen. Thus, societal issues such as racism seem are very much reflected online, often times in a much more vicious capacity, so I reject your notion that the Internet is a “raceless space”—this sounds very much like a utopian vision to me.

    When it comes to issues of social class, I think that you’re very much on-point. People of color in the US are disadvantaged in many ways, which can affect the dynamics of how they interact and who they interact with in all facets of their lives. Obviously, this is a huge societal issue in real life, and none of the blame for this can be placed on social media. However, by this same token, the existence of things such as bullying and general social exclusion, which people of color are often the target of in offline relationships, are still very real online, and are definitely a driving factor for segregation online.

    For instance, it is well known that there are many men online who, behind fake identities, make many misogynist comments, especially on dating sites such as OKCupid. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, this is magnified when racism is involved. There is actually a blog called “Creepy White Guys” (link below) that documents many comments, obviously written by creepy white guys, who write extremely denigrating comments towards women of various races. To me, it seems that this would be a fairly obvious driver for women of color to leave these websites, because of the racism (and misogyny) they have to face on them.

    It’s very nice to be able to think of the Internet as a safe place where racism isn’t a factor, but in reality, the Internet is used by members of modern society, which is still by and large very racist. To claim that any segregation that exists online isn’t really “segregation” but is just a factor of innocent differences in culture ignores a lot of racial issues that exist today.

    Creepy White Guys blog: http://creepywhiteguys.tumblr.com/

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