The Impact of Social Media on the Ideology of Racism: A Literature Review
The ideology of racism has long existed in American culture and transcontinental. 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). Learn more about it at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1045159514534190
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 …