Social networks through a race and class lens

black-twitter

One of the readings for this week was a chapter called White Flight in Networked Publics? How Race and Class Shaped American Teen Engagement with MySpace and Facebook by Danah Boyd in an edited book. Boyd’s work is focused on two social media platforms, Facebook and MySpace and the shift in their popularity among teenagers. Her main argument, although as she puts it is more of an illustration, is that the people that adopt one or another social network site and “the perceptions teens have about these sites reflect broader narratives of race and class in American society” (Boyd, 2012).

The examples she gives are direct quotes from American teenagers that justify their choice for either Facebook or MySpace. The reasons she identifies for teenagers slowly preferring Facebook to Myspace are mostly related to these sites’ design and appearance that have deeper routes in users racial or class background. For example, she argues that due to Facebook’s standard design and lack of possibility to modify your profile page to your liking, some teens were reticent to switching to Facebook because they preferred the more creative possibilities MySpace offered. However, because Facebook was initially an ivy-league only social network that later on opened its door to high school students and then the world, it was mostly seen as an elitist social network, which appealed to some, but repelled others. While interviewing white teenagers, Boyd also identifies self-segregation as another reason why Facebook became more popular. Due to the reason that Facebook looked ‘cleaner’ and MySpace achieved a certain ghetto look, mainly explained through the use of other races other than white, students shifted towards the newer social media platform.

self_segregation_by_blonndie96-d5uyzn0

The argument she makes is important because it analyses why there are certain trends in social media. I agree with her research because it takes into account class and race issues that might influence the preference of youth choosing one thing over another and because we can find similar habits in contemporary stories. Self-segregation is still very much real in our universities or other social spaces and in the digital world as well.

A similar example is illustrated in an article by Soraia Nadia McDonald that explains the power of communities on social networks. The one she talks about is BlackTwitter, a pretty self-explanatory community. This can be considered another example of the self-segregation that Boyd talks about in her chapter.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/black-twitter-a-virtual-community-ready-to-hashtag-out-a-response-to-cultural-issues/2014/01/20/41ddacf6-7ec5-11e3-9556-4a4bf7bcbd84_story.html

The question that remains is whether social media platforms will keep their users in their racial bubble or is there a larger potential for people to become more integrated beyond class, race or gender borders.

Irina Jurj

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