The Impact of Social Media on the Ideology of Racism: A Literature Review
The ideology of racism has long existed in American culture and transcontinentally. Where there was once Jim Crow of the American South, Jewish ghettos of Venice, Austria, and genocide of Palestinians, there now also exists a virtual platform to spread racial prejudices – social media. Social media websites have become increasingly popular over the last decade, and while some people use them for recreational and networking purposes, there is a large number of people and groups that use these websites to promote and perpetuate the disease that is racism. These acts create a virtual world of hate, which consequently pervades the thoughts, actions and psyches of society. The research reviewed herein will show how social media users relate to other individuals on social media websites, how they interpret racism, the central role that social media plays in spreading racial intolerance, and various methods that are being used to eradicate racism virtually and socially.
Social relations have changed drastically in recent years. Outside of immediate family members and co-workers we see daily, social life has otherwise been relegated to the technological advancements of the internet and social networking websites that “allow interaction and individual presence to occur across time and space” (Laudone 8). Facebook is one of the most popular and more intricate social networking websites where users develop their own identities, and associations, and can interact with, keep in touch with, and meet old and new friends through instantaneous, textual and visual dialogue. McCosker and Johns mention a term coined digital citizenship – “Digital citizenship has been defined as ‘the ability to participate in society online’” (67). Unlike other social media websites such as Twitter and YouTube, users of Facebook “exist within a broader set of social characteristics (e.g. race, age, gender and sexuality)…these social characteristics shape the ways individuals use Facebook and the ways in which Facebook users create their on-line identities” (Laudone 6). Facebook and other social networking websites like it, present a virtual environment where users feel a need for connection and belonging and often become obsessed with the urge to be informed of the whereabouts and doings of their online associates several times a day. Much of this obsessive behavior stems from today’s preoccupation with celebrity culture and voyeurism (Laudone 9). People have become overly intrigued by the everyday lives of celebrities, which becomes evident in reality television shows, blogs, and tabloids. In turn, social media users attempt to mimic this culture when navigating though their own social space online, making one’s presence in the virtual world a popularity contest, in a sense.
Not only do these social networking sites create a strong sense of connectivity and placement for users, but they often times serve as a primary source of information for many. The Pew Research Center found that “72% of adults who use the internet participate in social media video sharing sites such as YouTube or Vimeo…through such sites, they may upload, view, and respond to videos on a range of topics, including those that address issues of race” (Nakagawa and Arzubiaga 103). In the article, “The Use of Social Media in Teaching Race,” Nakagawa and Arzubiaga contend that, “What makes social media unique in teaching about race is moving beyond the mere content of the video [or text] to understanding the medium itself and to explore who created the content. For example, in YouTube, a user may explore what other content [another user] uploaded and whether [they] posted similar rants” (106). Factors such as access to computers, knowledge of current news and history, as well as being technology savvy, and having, what most times is a false sense of entitlement, plays a major part in the way in which social media users understand, interpret, and comment on issues of race. There is also a vast number of social media users that prescribe to a colorblind ideology, which makes them more susceptible to overlooking and even supporting racists imagery and text witnessed online. In her article entitled, “Facebook: A “Raced” space or “Post-Racial”?” Stephanie Laudone states, “Only instead of the blatant racism seen in the Civil Rights Era, this modern day racism takes the form of a “color-blind” racism, a carefully coded “race talk” that avoids making the user appear racist” (6). Jeff Ginger further affirms this notion in, “The Facebook Project – The Missing Box: The Racial Politics Behind the Facebook Interface,” where he argues that because Facebook, a visually-driven website, does not allow a category or box for users to identify their race or ethnicity when creating their profiles, the site inadvertently endorses the colorblind theory. “By choosing to make a race, ethnicity, or nationality category unavailable and knowing that Facebook is a visually-driven [social networking site], Facebook serves to inadvertently or covertly perpetuate two racist norms: the colorblind mentality and racialized visual classification of others” (Ginger 7).
Anonymity and instantaneously widespread communication are key aspects in what makes social media the new go-to for racists groups and individuals. It is the unrestricted nature of the internet which allows for unusually increased displays of racial bias as opposed to face-to-face racist interaction. “Whereas earlier generations of hate groups were forced to spread their message in person, the advent of social media websites has provided hate groups with nearly unfettered access to millions of potential sympathizers. They aim at spreading their ideologies and seek to make racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and other forms of group-focused enmity seem “normal” through targeted online posts, videos and discussions” (Gross and Cohen). Gross and Cohen go on to explain how many hate groups use code names and symbols to express their hateful messages, and because they understand that overtly racist propaganda will only appeal to a narrow audience, they often times camouflage their hate speech as an objection or protest to a range of current social ills. Other forms of racism performed by individuals on social media are not as clever and/or sneaky. In the article, “Anti-Social Media: Study Finds Racists Tweets Are Set This Many Times a Day,” author, Chris Hoenig writes, “Racist and derogatory messages are posted on Twitter at a rate of about 10,000 tweets per day, or roughly seven tweets every minute.” The study also found that most of the racial slurs and messages were being thrown about in an extremely casual manner, jokingly, and unknowingly. “Of the 10,000 racist tweets sent per day, upward of 70 percent of them were sent in a fashion not intended to be derogatory or abusive” (Hoenig). In addition, the study found that some of the racists slurs used on Twitter are most commonly used by the same people they were meant to insult (e.g. the frequent use of the word “nigger” within the African-American community) (Hoenig).
Piggybacking off of Hoenig’s findings that racist messaging is often presented in a joking and, or oblivious way is Laudone’s notion of the terms “frontstage” and “backstage” to distinguish types of racist behavior. The colorblind theory of racism previously discussed herein would be considered “frontstage” racism because it is socially acceptable and politically correct; whereas, “The backstage offers a safe place for the expression of racism, including racial joking, stereotypes, images, prejudice and other racial performances. Moreover, the backstage offers a safe place, a racially homogenous network where whites can feel comfortable engaging in racial performances that are supported by the all-white network, consisting of “anchored relationships which rely on shared knowledge and values” (Laudone 7). However, the freedom of social media provides the freedom to throw caution out of the window, consequently allowing the backstage to come to the forefront.
Another study conducted by Rauch and Schanz makes the correlation between frequency of use of social media websites and the acceptance of prejudiced messaging. As stated previously within the review, the primary motivation of most social media users, particularly those of Facebook, is to feel a sense of connectivity with others. Because of this reasoning, critical evaluation of information viewed in various postings becomes a secondary or nonexistent notion. Social media participants are not only able to create their own content, but link to articles and blogs from outside sources; thus, the average user is exposed to mainstream news in addition to the persuasive messages attached to the news by others. Frequent use of social media websites only makes users more susceptible to untruths and ignorance.
Facebook messages may also be highly persuasive partly because they come from within the individual’s social network. Schanz 610).
Typically, social media users can be broken down into two categories: (1) users with a high need to belong and, or low need for cognition and (2) high information seekers that require effortful thinking (Rauch and Schanz 611). The results of the study conducted by Rauch and Schanz confirmed that those who used social media more frequently had more positive attitudes toward the racially biased messages presented to them via social media; whereas, users in the high information seeking category had more negative attitudes toward messages of racial superiority. Therefore, it can be deduced that the need to connect, coupled with shallow processing contribute to the spread and acceptance of racial messages on social media.
This paper was supposed to focus on sources rather than the issue itself. It has then failed to fully meet its requirements. However, the points are strong, well explained and supported. The paper should anyway be rewritten to focus on sources.
Credible sources were used though they were not put in the works cited page. There was enough use of sources and the page though two reference styles were employed which is wrong. All in test citation should be put to MLA format for consistence and a works cited page be introduced.
There was a logical arrangement of ideas and progressive building of points. The paper was arranged well. There need to be a good conclusion at the end which is missing.
The paper has no major mistakes grammatically. It has employed a good style and points are well delivered in paragraphs. There need to be changes in some conjunctions and punctuation as shown in the comments.
The paper was well researched on with credible sources; however it failed to deliver information consistent with its requirements. This paper was not supposed to be a research or persuasive but focused on sources. It however completely focused on the issue. Language use and transition through the paper was good. There is however a problem with information given consistence with the thesis which was not drafted properly also. The paper had major writing mistakes in referencing when it employed both MLA and APA in some in text citations. Finally, it lacked the very essential works cited page and basic page and paragraph formatting as outlined in the comments.