The emergence of social media has been changing human society rather drastically. Social media can connect people from different places of the world by allowing them to communicate with one another much more easily. Meanwhile, the various functions of social media and its increasing presence and significance in people’s everyday life appear to influence humans on different aspects and levels. It is fair to say that a lot of our ideals and movements can be pushed by the power of social media and thus conduce to society’s growth. In this paper, three functions social media have for society and its members are discussed. More specifically, how social media affects the process and outcomes of fighting against racism. Social media nowadays appears to become the platform where users can fight against racism effectively through exposing the different conducts of racism, establishing solidarity, and educating people about proper views on diversity.
First, social media helps many activists in the fight for racial justice by exposing the unjust conduct related to racial discrimination on a massive scale. As the ideal of equality thrives rapidly throughout the world, there tends to be an increasing scale of attention towards racial justice. In the meantime, it is quite evident that social media has brought greater convenience for the reception and spread of information in our society. Moreover, the spread of incidental news appears to play a crucial role in people’s fight against racism. According to Boczkowski, Mitchelstein, and Matassi, “the growing popularization of social media has triggered more interest in incidental news due to the realization of an uptake in exposure to current events information as a by-product of using these platforms” (2018). It is perceivable that a lot of people would have the habit of checking their social media from time to time, and it would be easy for them to notice the news that is posted on various social media platforms. Users of social media can access almost all kinds of news by simply moving their fingertips. Thus, the accessibility towards incidental news enables the users of social media to capture the critical incidents related to racism and to generate and address their opinion. Moreover, it is efficient to spread a message or promote an idea across people through social media when an opinion is led by influencers. For instance, according to BBC, “in recent weeks, celebrities and influencers have spoken out after several disturbing incidents went viral on social media” (2021). Barack Obama, the 44th U.S. president, advocate anti-racism for Black Life Matter and Stop Asian Hate on Twitter. Unquestionably, incidental news posted on social media platforms plays a significant role to spread positive ideas.
Nonetheless, this effect could be a double-edged sword. Social media is an open platform for all types of opinions and sentiments regardless of its genuineness, sedition, and potential impacts. Since the spreading of viral messages in social media would also apply to the exposure of racism events, remarks, and concepts. Often time events would escalate in an unexpected way or pace in social media. what is also amplified is the emotion and the perspective of the people behind the screen. Different people may have different opinions on the same matter. When the extreme ones get exposed or spread through social media, negative consequences will occur. The study of anti-Asian hate and counter hate in social media during the COVID-19 pandemic renders, “ hate is contagious and nodes are highly likely to become hateful after being exposed to hateful content”(Ziems, He, Soni, & Kumar, 2020). Moreover, social media with big data and AI technology has become a powerful news outlet for people to obtain the information that they need. The article of The COVID‐19 Social Media Infodemic points out, “Users online tend to acquire information adhering to their worldviews, to ignore dissenting information, and to form polarized groups around shared narratives(Cinelli et al., 2020). Being able to filter or select the information in social media, people behind the screen are actively or passively exposed to the information that they like to see. It is hard to guarantee that the key leading opinions are truthful, sensible, and ethical. Hatred, misleading and fake information exists everywhere in the world of social media. In the era where the majority of people are social media users, people need logical thinking and proper moral standard more than ever to get to the truth. Social media platforms and influencers should also be ethically responsible when they post news.
Second, it appears that social media influences the fight against racism by serving as the place where personal connections can be established and maintained. The concept of community allows people from different backgrounds to find their sense of belonging in the group. “Although traditional communities were never as local or solidary as commentators have idealized, the introduction of new technologies introduces transformations in how people form and maintain relationships as well as how they gain access to information and support” (Hampton & Wellman, 2018). Again, it is highly affirmative that, as one of the new technologies, social media indeed has changed how people communicate with one another daily. Communication via social media could now embody and demonstrate support for different individuals, especially the many people who have been the victim of racism. For instance, the Black Lives Matter movement has been growing rather strong ever since the death of George Floyd. When Floyd was yelling that he cannot breathe, some of the witnesses recorded the brutality from the police and Floyd’s suffering. It is sensible that social media has contributed to the formation of a variety of communities against racism. People throughout the world organized protests and walks against racism in 2020. Social media played the huge role in organizing such events. Meanwhile, the internet community showed great moaning for the tragedy, and social media became the platforms to host discussions related to Floyd’s death. Apart from the movement honoring Floyd, there are also many other examples showing how social media becomes the platform for people to establish solitary efforts against other injustice. For instance, according to Keles, “whereas until 2000 the diasporic community [of Kurdish people] centers were the main source of information, [the prospect] has changed with the increase in communication and transport technologies so that, in particular, Kurdish satellite tv and the Internet are now the main information provider”. A lot of Kurdish movements against oppression imposed on them began to move to the internet and social media (2016). Social media’s efficiency and impacts on communities cannot be ignored as the voices heard in society could be unprecedented. As a result, it is quite affirmative that users could form tighter connections and communities so that they can coordinate and join forces in the fight against racism. Meanwhile, such solidarity is critical as, during the moment, it is rather difficult to acknowledge that we are far away from the exclusion of racial discrimination. During the entire COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed a lot of brutalities related to racism. It is even undeniable that racism may have been aggravated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic in a certain level. Many hateful events towards Asian communities have occurred in some regions and countries in the world. Yet, there is a silver lining as the racism events continue to be reported on social media platforms. People demonstrate their attitude toward stopping Asian hate by donating to the victims of racism assault at GoFundMe.com. In this case, social media platforms act as a means for different people to show their thoughts and altitudes on unjust events associated with racism. Social media platforms can unite people from various backgrounds and locations and serve as an outlet for their views on racism.
Finally, social media can educate people regarding the diversity among them and the proper means to approach and advocate such diversity so that the fight against racial discrimination can progress. As the number of social media users increases every day, social media inevitably becomes influential to people and society more and more. Social media has been a great platform for different users to study and implement some of the more comprehensive visions regarding racism. Meanwhile, the elements of narratives and communiqués via social media can help the originator of the content to make their messages more effective and inspirational. For instance, in the Zapatistas movement, “the ways that Zapatistas disseminated narratives and communiqués about their political exigency via the Internet inspired leftist activists in many parts of the world” (Duarte, 2017). In the case of the Idle No More campaign, what social media had contributed to the web campaign is not only its public exposure but also background, status, and cultures about indigenous communities. Duarte describes while the rapid and widespread dissemination of information and summaries about happenings around Idle No More occurred, all documents associated with the campaign were shown, including the text of the C-series of bills, legislative changes, lobbying groups, and the status of Chief Theresa Spence’s (Attawapiskat) hunger strike–allowed educators and journalists in many places to host teach-ins and write independent media stories (Duarte, 2017). The power of social media pushed forward a social movement for social justice as well as promoting education about indigenous communities to other communities or people who are not familiar with the context. The success of Idle No more is encouraging for fighting against racism. Anti-racism education can also be promoted by social media. In this process, certain tactics and strategies have been adapted to use in many settings over social media platforms. Likewise, certain moral and ethical standards should be followed by social media users and platforms.
In conclusion, social media has been a life-changing force for a lot of us humans since its invention, and it has been contributing to a wide array of societal movements especially in recent years. One of them turns out to be the fight against racism. There has been a great amount of information and urges against racist perceptions and conducts in different aspects of our lives. When people fighting against racism, social media provides platforms to expose the different racist events and issues, establish solidarity and unity, and educate people about proper views on diversity and justice. More importantly, the influence of social media on society has been intensifying ever since it steps into people’s lives. Nowadays, no one can neglect the impact of social media on their lives. In other words, social media has become so important that properly utilizing social media is necessary to effectively fight against racism and social injustice. All in all, social media is a huge force that we cannot ignore nowadays and can make huge differences to human society.
Boczkowski, P. J., Mitchelstein, E., & Matassi, M. (2018). “News comes across when I’m in a moment of leisure”: Understanding the practices of incidental news consumption on social media. New Media & Society, 20(10), 3523–3539. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444817750396
BBC. (2021). “Covid ‘hate crimes’ against Asian Americans on rise”. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56218684
C. Ziems, B. He, S. Soni, and S. Kumar. (2020). “Racism is a Virus: Anti-Asian Hate and Counterhate in Social Media during the COVID-19 Crisis”. arXiv.12423. https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.12423.
Cinelli, M., Quattrociocchi, W., Galeazzi, A. et al. (2020). “The COVID-19 social media infodemic”. Sci Rep 10, 16598. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-73510-5
Hampton K., Wellman, B. (2018). “Lost and Saved . . . Again: The Moral Panic about the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media”. Contemporary Sociology;47(6):643-651. doi:10.1177/0094306118805415.
Keles, Janroj Yilmaz. (2016). Digital Diaspora and Social Capital. Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication. 9. 315–333. 10.1163/18739865-00903004.
Duarte, M. E. (2017). Connected Activism: Indigenous Uses of Social Media for Shaping Political Change. Australasian Journal of Information Systems, 21. https://doi.org/10.3127/ajis.v21i0.1525
17 thoughts on “Social Media in The Fight Against Racism”
Your paper was an awesome read!
I like that social media can out some people’s opinions in a more permanent way. For instance, if someone was told “to go back to where they came from” one-on-one in person, it is much harder to prove that the interaction even occurred. But now with the longevity of social media, racist content can always be found and the consequences of the individuals posts and comments will likely follow them around for a long time. Like you mention, this in itself has changed the way people talk to one another online, which may carry over into the offline world.
The anonymity that some social media sites provide, can be useful for advocates fighting against racism to protect themselves while standing up for their rights. This can also go the other way however, when racist individuals can use the same anonymity to say what they like without consequences, making social media a double edged sword.
Is there any one platform that you think is especially beneficial for fighting racism, if so why?
Thanks for a well researched paper!
Awesome post! Thank you for sharing. I would argue however that social media more brings issues of racism to light rather than an aid to help fight racism. Social Media definitely exposes unjust conduct as you mentioned although the racist conduct continues to happen daily, despite all the movements that may happen online.
The George Floyd and BLM movement is a great example of this. As you mentioned, social media definitely helped to spread the word of the unjust issues surrounding George Floyds death which literally rocked the world. Despite all the influencers and organisations getting behind the BLM cause on social media by making videos on YouTube talking about racism, changing their profile pictures to BLM and via other means, racism unfortunately still occurs, and since the death of Floyd, 181 black people have been killed by police in the US alone (Reference: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/crime/police-brutality-deaths-floyd-chauvin-b1839103.html ). If social media really was helping to fight racism, shouldn’t that number be much lower?
Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the first people to stand up for African American civil rights in 1955. It’s been 53 years since his passing and still racism is still prominent in the American community. Not even with the reach and attention on social media from George Floyd’s passing could we have stopped racism. All we did was shed light on the situation and sympathise with the black community.
You later mentioned yourself that the ‘Stop Asian Hate’ is now a prominent issue for the Asian community. Again, social media hasn’t really helped to end hate crimes or racism towards the Asian community, it’s only brought them to light and made us sympathise with the Asian community.
Racism isn’t just happening towards Black Americans or Asians, it can happen to any of us, for reasons literally out of our control. We don’t get a choice of what race we are born into. All that we can do is continue to shed light and educate us all about the racism that occurs daily and help us all to be better humans by not tolerating racism when we see it!
I truely do think I am pretty lucky to live in such a multicultural country where racism definitely still occurs, but not to the extent or extreme that does in other countries. I personally don’t look at or judge people for the colour of their skin, but by their character.
Thanks again for sharing!
I really enjoyed reading your paper on such an important topic. I believe that social media provided a platform to community these current issues across a huge online network, which is vital in fighting for societal change. It enables people to post short videos or slides about the issue to spread awareness and conversation about the topic. Even platforms like Tik Tok have worked to spread awareness through viral videos. Social media platforms definitely act as an educational tool to highlight the issues of racism that we still face today and help to eradicate this.
Hi Yuhe! I enjoyed reading your paper about how social media can help fighting racism. I remember there is a footballer named Kevin Prince Boateng who experienced racism abouse and it is spread on twitter and other social media and gained positive reaction.
My question is in the future time can still help fighting social media fight bullying ? the second one i bullying how can you tell that social media is a prominent platform to be used to fight bully other inequality happened in the world?
While reading your paper, it made me remember the time when I was in the States travelling. I’m from Indonesia, and I’ve encountered some people who told me to go back to the Philippines when I was there and honestly it upsets me. I completely agree when you said ” it is efficient to spread a message or promote an idea across people through social media when an opinion is led by influencers”. Influencers have the fan base where their followers tend to listen to them. Influencers can help spread education about racism.
what are your thoughts on the recent world issue regarding Palestine and Israel? Has this issue sparked racism on social media? are there any Influencer who try to express peace and help tone down racist comments regarding this issue on social media?
Feel free to read my paper regarding about how social media can help individuals that are diagnosed with mental illness: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/28/how-social-media-such-as-twitter-and-discord-can-help-individuals-with-mental-illness-and-build-communities-online/
I really like your paper as it is a fact that social media educated people more about racism and through social media, many people from different ethnic groups came together to fight this. Without social media platform, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be aware of the difficulties other people are facing due to the different background they come from.
And through social media and the fight against rasisum, we get to learn and discover many things around the globe. An example: i have a group of people on Facebook that speak a lot about Native Americans and a girl passed a hash comment which then led to another comment from a boy who spoke about the hand-poke tattoo and various stuff that Native Americans were doing . After this day, everyone spoke about the Native Americans differently, as in everyone were bringing different mini research they’ve got and everyone would just comment on it by expressing how amazed they were, My point is, through social media we get to eradicate racism by showing the beauty of the culture and its people. In some way, it is allowing us to keep traditions that was practiced by ancestors, alive.
Thank you for this paper, it was really nice reading it and relating it to some of my own experiences.
that was such an interesting piece!
I found your analysis of social media as double-edged sword very interesting and it definitely resonated with my experience online as well. Social media, for activists, can be a powerful tool but for oppressors, they can only reinforce their harmful beliefs, creating an echo chamber effect.
Social media has definitely given individuals a platform to disseminate material and discuss issues such as racism, supporting those minorities who are unjustly oppressed.
Feel free to check my paper where I explore the Social Commentary Scene on YouTube as a genre that drives social activism in contemporary times.
Thank you again for this very insightful paper!
I hope you are doing well!
Thank you for this insightful paper, I’m happy you brought on this topic since racism on social media is a huge issue in the contemporary era.
I completely agree with your arguments and I think social media in fact informs individuals about how others react to it. I also believe that this is advantageous since it reduces the level of concealment of racism on these platforms. It discloses those believing they could be openly racist and throw hate on the minorities and also warns the rest engaging in such activities and attitudes would have negative consequences in their own life if identified. This also facilitates professional organizations to notify one another about upcoming protests or gatherings to consider measures to combat racism.
And despite the fact I think that social media can enlighten individuals about how others are affected by racism, in my opinion, I don’t believe it is effective in combating racism since individuals cannot truly understand or have sympathy until they have personal experience. They may gain knowledge about racism’s brutality after encountering it, or they may resort to violence and strike back by becoming racist to others. It relies on the way individuals think about and respond to the circumstance.
My conference paper talks exactly about the different ways hatred is constructed on social media and the way it affects individuals. Give it a read and let me know what you think about it!
From what I have gathered through reading these papers is that social media’s ability to give individuals’ voice towards social issues has many benefits and you highlighted it perfectly in your paper through discussing the behaviours and social change indorsed by online activists.
I liked how you addressed that celebrities are a significant factor to spreading this awareness as I completely agree; with power comes responsibility. I think that because a lot of people are unable to speak up (due to threats of losing jobs, reputation, etc), it gives celebrities/influencers on these platforms a big opportunity to participate in the hunt for justice – to spread awareness and educate others that these particular behaviours are wrong (establish moral standards, as you mentioned).
Furthermore, your discussion of these influencers creating a ‘safe place’ in the online communities for users to communicate their experiences, opinions and to take action with the influential support. The George Floyd case was the best example of this, although there have been many offline causes previously – it would be interesting to see the connections between the history of offline and online movements and influential significance. Does this change due to social media? Do in-person protests need these celebrity indorsements to become successful too?
Let me know your thoughts.
Your argument was clear and a lot of insightful interpretations were made.
That was a great paper on such an important topic.
It feels awkward to comment as a caucasian person who has not experienced racism but it does not mean that I can’t advocate for it to come to a stop.
On social media it is definitely advocated for but it feels backhanded when people jump on and support something for a trend. Do you think it is okay to jump on the trend or just back off and not show support online? How can we appear as a genuine activist that wants to help and raise awareness rather than looking uneducated and pathetic (which may be a strong word)?
It has definitely educated a lot of people on the topic as I, for one, never knew about the #StopAsianHate until it has blown up massively. It felt wrong to be so out of the loop towards these things but that’s why social media is so good at educating and attempting to combat these things.
I trust that you are fit and safe.
I really appreciate your paper, it is very important for people to understand that nowadays there is no place for racism. Reading your paper made gave me thought about my school days when I was personally a victim in the past in my previous international school where some of the kids were British and I am a Mauritian they used to tease and bully me because I am not fair like them and I was very shy. It was really difficult for me to adapt because of those comments but with time they stopped because they were warned by the form teacher of the class. That is why I am highly against racism because this has definitely no future to hold and this can hurt the feelings of the other person. I am very happy that people nowadays took a stand to fight against racism on social media platforms and also in some countries for instance, England they have clearly mentioned about the consequence when people will pass on racist comments on black people. Social media plays a huge role to prevent those issues. I am really inspired after having read your paper, thank you very much for this piece of work. See you, and best of luck.
Great paper. I don’t know if l agree that social media is helpful in calling-out racism. Sometimes l think when we over address things, we promote a kind of impracticality or noncense that becomes a new form of in this case “racism”. Although, social media does raise issues that cover the various dynamics surrounding racism. I personally don’t know if that is what the world really needs.
Racism is not just a modern day concern, it has been a concern for thousands of years. It is a very sad and disrespectful part of being a human-being that for millenia has seperated humans. It is in our uncompromising nature as human-beings that has forever devided countries, states, cities, suburbs, as well as human understanding. As long we see ourselves as an un-united race and push to build equality, the more we seem to witness inequality. It is also the beuarocratic nonsence that we hear constantly within media and social media that continues to form the great divide between human-beings. If everyone stopped nittpicking at every song with a colour in it, and peeling racism from every core of life, whether it be the name of a cheese or a nursery rhyme from the past; we might actually be able to genuinly understand the proper realities of racism and its horrible effects it has on innocent people. Being reminded constantly through the media and social media of these constant nittpicking-negatives can have an adverse effect on what we are trying to achieve. Being good humans, respecting and accepting others, and admitting when we make mistakes will go a long way to minimising racism.
Thankyou for this great paper it is very thought evoking.
Thanks for sharing your ideas on how the social media affects the activists on racism movement. Indeed, social media nowadays is the most powerful tool that can influence the whole society. The incident of “George Floyd” and “Black Lives Matter” had not only being spread within United States but the whole world. I will like to admit that social media makes people to be more careful and behave on doing something. Those who make mistakes especially the internet influencers will get their brand image destroyed or being “cancelled”. Therefore, I agree on you saying that social media can be double-edged sword where most of the toxicity are now come from the internet.
Overall, I agree with you with your statements on social media.
I really enjoyed reading your article! I liked how you structured your paper, it was great to read about the different ways that social media helps combat racism, like raising awareness of racist activity, creating a sense of solidarity, and educating people about racism. I also liked how you touched on a counter argument about how social media enhances racism by both actively and passively exposing people to information which reaffirms their beliefs. I agree that this is harmful because it can promote hate and lead to the formation of polarised groups. Your points really opened my mind and made me realise that although social media has supported anti-racist communities and provided tools for people to fight against racism, it has also encouraged racist beliefs about minority groups. All a racist person must do is ‘like’ a racist photo and their algorithm will recommend similar racist content. This causes them to become lost in echo chambers of racist content which reaffirms their beliefs and promotes hate (Ziems, Soni & Kumar, 2020). I think this is dangerous because it can create large intolerant racist communities.
Considering that social media algorithms play a large roll in reaffirming racist beliefs, do you think social media companies should be held responsible to ensure that this doesn’t happen? Or should it be up to the individual to independently change their beliefs and use better judgement?
Thanks so much for sharing this article, it was a great read!
If you have time, please check out my paper on Instagram and feminism! Here’s the link: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/28/instagram-celebrities-leading-a-new-wave-of-feminism/#comment-450
Ziems, C., He, B., Soni, S., & Kumar, S. (2020). Racism is a virus: Anti-asian hate and counterhate in social media during the covid-19 crisis. arXiv preprint arXiv:2005.12423.
I really enjoyed reading your paper and it has brought up a lot of relevant issues that need to be spoken about more today. The examples you’ve provided – The Black Lives Matter Movement and George Floyd, it is evident that African Americans are constantly being faced with injustices due to their race and this has been a constant struggle for them despite their best efforts to eradicate this racism stereotype. Social Media has definitely played a significant role in trying to eradicate these stereotypes and bring justice to the injustice they’ve faced through movements that have been initiated through social media platforms like Twitter.
Social media fueled the success of the movement worldwide and platforms such as Instagram allowed celebrities to use their platforms to raise awareness on issues like the BLM and the #MeToo movement as well.
There are other platforms such as TikTok that have now started to initiate acts of activism in order to raise awareness on other issues regarding racism as well.
Although these issues are still relevant today and have not 100% been eliminated, social media has allowed for some change within the social and political system and this is a stepping stone in the right direction.
My question would be: do you think these movements would have been as successful as they were without the use of social media?
I’ve also written a paper regarding the #me too movement and the role of Twitter in regards to the success of this movement. I’d love for you to check it out as well
Here’s the link! 🙂
I thoroughly enjoyed reading your paper about the racist injustices that occur on a national level (Social Media in The Fight Against Racism) providing relevant and current examples. I applaud you incorporating the use of the Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, the injustices against African American race have been an ongoing struggle where millions have died due to brutality and harsh racism that occurs in America. Social media played such a crucial role in this social moment as the live footage was broadcasted where the police who killed George Floyd were held acceptable at a global level sparking a variety of movements against those who have been wrongly targeted against aka the native Australians and the Indignant Citizens of Greece. Without the use of the collaborative media that social media provides, do you believe that the Black Lives Matter would have been so successful in overcoming this injustice?
Overall the employment of social media in society is has been explained well in your conference paper, if you would like to explore further how Facebook acted a construct of social right movements, I encourage you to read what my conference paper has to offer.