Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Classism and Racism Are Issues Beyond the Net

I had been more aware on the Digital Divide among nations, at the macro level, not so much domestically. I guess I'm a globalist in the sense of social issues. Yet, it is a reality like in any other public sphere. Reading the expressions of the youth class and racial divisions between MySpace and Facebook confirmed my observations about both social networs' environments. That there are "certain people" who use each service. I had a Facebook before I had a MySpace, and preferred it over the other because I could find my college classmates. In this sense, I was influenced by social status, not class. I also disliked MySpace's layout. Too flashy. However, I never rejected because "ghetto" people hung out at MySpace. Though, some may define flashy as "ghetto", and may perceive my rejection of MySpace as a reaction to that. However, I've been taught to be a person of consciousness or as some call it "political correctedness". I just simply liked to have a simple layout and wanted to find like-minded college students.

Boyd argues that the public spaces in social networking sites are stratified so people can find people like them in every sense of the word. This has been my experience. Ever since I became internet savvy (around 10 years ago) I tried to connect with people from my home country. I felt a craving for this "togetherness" that we could share as a group. Then, I became progressively narrower on my search for a net belonging. Thus, my new quest became to find people from back home who share other things with me, such as political views. I then began expanding my social networks to include people who shared my political activism across religion, race (I use this nonsense word for the sake of semantics), class, nationality, and ethnicity. Within that narrow niche I became motivated to reach out to others that I normally wouldn't had I not been a little picky at first.

The articles made me pond on the idea that these narrow niches can help people to expand their horizons, and challenge the socially and racially stratified structure. When we find ourselves among people who are too much like us we begin to feel an itch to go outside the box. In my experience, I got tired of all "kinds" of Puerto Ricans, so I wanted to find "specific ones". However, it became very boring, and I noticed that it paused my progress as a thinker and activist because I had other interests outside this very narrow niche. I, thus, began to open myself up to "Other" people. Watkins has noted that Latinos and Blacks had been progressively migrating from MySpace to Facebook. This could be due to a number of issues. I would argue that one reason could be that they become bored of the same, and want to explore a new venue like in my case. By migrating from the "ghetto" (MySpace), these Latinos and Blacks are exposed to diversity, and may open up their horizons. An opportunity not afforded by the outside public space which is less intimate.

Nonetheless, racial and ethnic segregation wouldn't be automatically stopped by the wide range interactions of the new digital world. As Boyd noted on her ethnography, interest or ethnic groups tend to band together wherever their crowds move. Thus, to bring integration across race, class, and ethnicity there needs to be a value system to promote that. Most privileged people grow up with values that tell them to not be like the "Other". It is part of their belief system that keeps them in their privileged positions. On the other hand, the "Others" also grow up with a value system driven by beliefs about the privileged as well. Thus, it is a social contestation that needs repairing beyond the internet. Though, the internet certainly helps to engage both parties within public places, we have seen Latinos and Blacks have their own public spaces (MySpace), as well as their own way of accessing these pubic places (mobile connection). Moreover, the internet has also been a public space to promote racism. An example was the UCLA's student's rant against Asians. The net was used as a tool for racism, not for eliminating it. Engaging people to learn about the "Other", to interact with the "Other", and to accept the "Other" will take us a step further in trying to eradicate social and ethnic stratification; and, the internet can play a large role in this but it won't be the cause of it. Racism and classism go beyond that. Thus, I sadly say that for the foreseeable future classism and racism will be part of our online lives. More so now with the increasing socio economic crisis that is increasing class conflict (which is also overwhelmingly about race).

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