Division Online: Race and Class

Have you ever wondered why there is so many white girls posting a picture of their Starbucks drink? According to S. Craig Watkins’ article Understanding the Mobile Lives of Black and Latino Youth, 75% of teens are using cell phones, 78% are white teens, 75% are black teens and 68% are Hispanic teens. Class also factors into how much is using cell phones. Only 59% with an income of less than $30,000 a year, while 87% uses cell phones with an income of $75,000+.

To an extent, we are divided amongst race and class in terms of income, privileges, etc. But are we also divided online as well?

The reason for such difference among race and class is because some can’t simply afford it. These people can’t experience the broadband connection and social media that it offers. For the percentage that does, each race seem to use these apps quite differently from each other, not by what we do, but how we utilize it as.


On Twitter, hashtags are a huge part of the application and it in fact started the way we use it today. It’s used to categorize their tweets, and people can search posts that include that hashtag. And a lot of people contribute to hashtags that are trending, or popular. From an article by Farhad Manjoo titled How Black People Use Twitterhe mentions that black people create these most of these popular hashtags. They can be anything, straight from his article, examples like, #ilaugheverytime and #annoyingquestion end up trending at least in their area. And non-black users are often confused by these sometimes and has “sparked lots of sometimes uncomfortable questions about “how black people use Twitter.” (Manjoo) It appears that we question each other’s use in how we use social media.

Not only does it seem like that but the way slander can be used online is more alive than it is in public. People have that shield of the computer screen to be able to say whatever they want. Terrorist attacks have recently happened in France and Al-Qaeda has claimed responsible. After that has happened, a hashtag appeared that quickly started trending labeled #KillAllMuslims. These people were directly blaming all muslims in the terrorist attacks. And if that wasn’t violent enough, three muslims were shot and killed by their neighbor, with religion playing a role and heavy speculations on the events in France as well.

So the question pops back up, are we really divided online? If you asked me, I’d say that every person has their own way of utilizing the internet, but in terms of racism and slander, it still exists and it’s probably bigger now thanks to the Internet.


27 thoughts on “Division Online: Race and Class

  1. Brandon Coulter February 19, 2015 / 3:14 pm

    It has already been discussed that the internet was created and maintained in hopes of establishing an unsupervised and freedom-oriented way of mass expression and creativity. The ability to say and post whatever you want seemed to only yield positive results for users. It was only a short amount of time before users began to take full advantage of this repercussion-less freedom, posting inflammatory and hateful comments directed towards a classist, sexist, or racist oppression. The ability to make such outlandish statements can only come from the ability to hide behind a computer monitor, safe from any true physical aggression and completely free to verbally and psychologically bash whatever unfortunate group is on the day’s radar. It’s one thing to make uneducated and ignorant comments and responses to different posts around the internet, as it is natural to experience a negative backlash as a result of your own thoughts. To actively seek out an individual’s personal information in an attempt to frighten and provoke them into no longer posting their own personal opinions not only goes against the entire foundation of the internet, but serves as a formidable basis for possible internet harassment and torture lawsuits. To allow this internet terrorists (and yes, I mean terrorist in its natural definition) to abuse and scare entire movements into hiding and backing away from the topics and issues that they have fought to mitigate for so long is to belittle and shame entire groups of people and segregate them from the accepted central group of the western world.


  2. bjuhasz10 February 19, 2015 / 4:40 pm

    I think that while there are so many positives that have come from the internet, I do believe that racism is a huge issue online.
    A Business Insider article (http://www.businessinsider.com/internet-racism-2012-5) I found does a good job of explaining something that I had suspected: Anonymity is the biggest reason things like racism, sexism, trolling, and other offensive things are posted and shared.

    The article mentions that “People are racist on the Internet because no one knows who they are. Online, you can say whatever you want in a public forum without consequences. In real life, you can’t.”

    So what is the answer to everybody being anonymous? Eliminate the anonymity. The article states that racism could be drastically reduced if anonymity is gone. While I believe that requiring anybody that posts on the internet or writes something to sign in with Facebook or Twitter could reduce some of the racism, I don’t think it will eliminate the problem completely.

    As I tweeted out earlier this week, “ESPN made it so you have to sign in through Facebook to comment on their site, still lots of trolling and fighting. Surprising?” ESPN managed to eliminate some of the racist and sexist comments it frequently got at the bottom of their articles, but not all of it. Also, they had a huge increase in spammers and fake accounts. While I’m not sure racism and sexism can be completely eliminated from the internet, do you have any other ideas that could be used to dramatically reduce the amount of racism and offensive material?


  3. Ms.McCollum February 19, 2015 / 5:05 pm

    I am fairly active on Twitter and not once have I seen of the parody birds or wondered how black people use Twitter. It’s also never been brought to my attention that most of the trending topics are created by black people. Maybe I need to pay more attention, but maybe it’s not as big of a deal as Sanders makes it to be.

    You said that racism still exists today and is even worse because of the internet. I agree racism still exists, but the internet doesn’t make it worse, just more known. I’d say that racism has evolved because of the internet, as bullying has evolved.

    We are divided because of the class issues. Not being able to afford internet draws you back and you cannot be as active as needed on social media. Same goes for smart phones; if you don’t have one then you can’t be in tune with everyone else. You cannot engage in the same conversations because you do not have the means to the knowledge. For the longest time I did not have a smart phone and not only was I divided online, but in real life as well. When people see that you do not have one they look at you as underprivileged. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s because they’re not necessary. Sadly tough, they are.


    • eakoonter February 21, 2015 / 3:43 pm

      I agree. I don’t think racism has become greater; it has become more known. We’re able to hide and say things that we can’t say to someone. We’re able to express ourselves and have people that aren’t afraid to back us up. This is what the Internet is; a mask. It divides us, we create groups and we take sides. United we stand, divided we fall. I wish the Internet could be used for good rather than bad. Racism is sickening.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. nebior February 19, 2015 / 8:57 pm

    As I, and many of us, have said before, it is easier to insult someone through a computer than it is in person. Insulting someone online because of their race is easier than in person in the same way they insult due to sex, age, appearance, or any other reasons. The internet brings out the worst in people, but it is not all negative. Social media connects many people as do many other aspects of the internet. You bring up good points about how income affects who has access to social media and other parts of the internet. Class can either allow or prevent people from entering into the pool of people who use social media. I feel everyone uses the internet and social media differently online and I am sure that race, sex and age can influence how it is used and how you are treated while using it. The internet can spread racism and your example about the #KillAllMuslims is a great example of how fear can be perpetuated alongside hatred of race, religion, sex, age, or any other of those categories. Hashtags can spread and hashtags are labels. Labeling every tweet in a category allows racist or sexist, etc. tweets to be massed, shared and stored in a way like never before.

    –Ben Walker

    Liked by 1 person

  5. spgregor February 20, 2015 / 7:25 am

    It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we see some division on the internet. As I have mentioned in prior posts, some people will always find a way to use things in ways they really weren’t meant to be. While the internet can be a great place to be anonymous when you want to be, unfortunately that anonymity can also be a great conduit to spew hate. Some people find it easier to express their true feelings anonymously. Sometimes this can be a good thing if they have positive things to say, but don’t have the confidence to do so under their own name. More often than not it is negative, hateful things that anonymity brings out. Additionally, there are some people on the internet who are just commenting to provoke others, they really have no issues. Some people only feel important if they are stirring up trouble.

    Your point about how income affects access to social media is a valid point. I also think it comes down to the society where you live and what you have been exposed to. Social media is used so differently based on cultural differences and not necessarily just race, etc.


  6. adrianhormsby February 21, 2015 / 10:07 am

    Alex you raise a very important question “are we really divided online?”. The answer to that, as you eluded to in your blog, is a resounding yes. In the Grad reading this week by Angela Cirucci which is a scholarly article that addresses digital culture and identity, she has a section in the paper entitled “FaceBook’s Many Faces”. Cirucci discusses the salience of race in the choice of social media by both youth and adults. As Alex pointed out, white people are leaving MySpace in droves for FaceBook and why is that ? One clue, as Cirucci explains is that whites readily admit to leaving stereotypically Black communities online (p.7), and MySpace is perceived as the social media tool that Blacks are using. In fact it is nicknamed the “ghetto” of social networking sites. Essentially this is the online version of “white flight”, a concept which Detroiters are all too familiar with. One can blame it on the riots of 67, the failing school systems, the lack of tax base etc, but reality is, it all came down to race, plain and simple. And it’s not the African American’s that left, not initially at least. The story of race in Detroit and Southeast Michigan is shameful indeed and one which many of the new generation are blissfully unaware of. Many white suburban kids in SE Michigan, even in college, have never even heard of blockbusting or the housing and work discrimination dished out to African Americans spanning decades in Detroit. Unfortunately the attitudes which prompted whites to up and leave the minute a black family came close to their neighborhood in Detroit during the 1950’s and 60’s, has literally transferred to the online community and is acutely reflected in the use of social media vehicles such as MySpace. Dana Boyd makes the astute observation that the same divide is not seen in the use of email accounts, whether it’s Google, Yahoo or AOL, who really cares whether you black or white. But as soon as you have to invite friends and post pictures (of your “white” friends), the choice becomes very important. Just as white families couldn’t be seen living on the same block as a black family, so it is with MySpace and FaceBook. Once again it’s not the African Americans leaving. Yes, racism is alive and kicking, even online.


  7. mvzang February 21, 2015 / 10:49 am

    This week’s blog has a lot of sensitive material. Like our readings by The Newstatesman and Sam Sanders said, there is a natural divide amongst people today and for many reasons. One of the best points the articles mentioned was that not having internet in the home isn’t necessarily 100% to blame for the racial or gender divide in this country, but a more simple explanation. People are generally creatures of habit and stick to they know best, whether that’s their neighborhood or the friends they choose to hang out with. Just as the article says, whatever current trends appear in the non-digital arena will also appear in the digital realm.

    I cannot say that I use the internet too much, so noticing this divide between everyone wasn’t as obvious to me. After reading the articles I began to see a whole new way of the way things are. In the beginning I thought the internet would be able to mesh cultures and races together better because those with bigot tendencies cannot see the color, gender or ethnicity of the person they may be interacting with, but I was wrong. Those who have this hatred toward others often feel this need to express their disgust, and hiding behind their computers is the best way for them to get their points across without facing someone in person that would simply put them in their place. We call them cowards. I believe as younger generations become older and we keep spreading the message of tolerance for one another, as human beings, the statistics of division will continue to decrease.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. rmpaulk February 21, 2015 / 11:59 pm

    I kind of have to agree that we are divided online. In everyday life there aren’t nearly as many cases of racism as there are online. In “real” life most people are ashamed or don’t think it is ok to be racist, but on the internet people feel protected by that veil of being anonymous. There will be times when my fiancé is playing a game on Xbox Live and I will hear people calling each other racial slurs or names based on sexual preference. We all know that more than likely they wouldn’t say anything like that in real life, but for some reason online it’s ok. “It’s just a game.” “I was just kidding.” On top of that there are also PLENTY of times when I hear little kids playing these games and cursing like a sailor. There is no way that these kids use that kind of language in their everyday talk, especially at school. Why is it ok that they act this way online? Why is it acceptable? Why is it “lame” to not talk like that or to not be ok with others saying those things? I don’t know if I would go so far as to say that white people use the internet differently than black people, though. That is just a generalization and kind of racist in itself. If you look for something hard enough, you will find it. So I think to say that we use the internet differently based on race is wrong. To say we use it based on income or upbringing, sure. Just because it “just so happens” that people with lower incomes use the internet a certain way and that it “just so happens” that majority of those lower income are a certain race, it doesn’t mean that that is how that whole race uses the internet. It’s a generalization.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. akuelbs February 22, 2015 / 12:30 am

    I think the way people use the internet and social media gets grouped into gender differences, but in reality, it all depends on the person and how they are to begin with. The way people use social media tends to be more of the person they truly are and they are able to show off who they are and their uniqueness in a different way. The fact that people will group this into racial standards is wrong. We also look at how income plays a role in social media, but you also have to take into account on what is accessible to people of different incomes. People who make more you can say have more access to somethings and that can group them into a certain group, where the same can be said about those with lower income. I just think that racial status can get incorrectly put into this, when there are many other factors that play a role on who a person is and how they act. People just have to be more mindful of not point right away at a racial thing. But in real life everyone doesnt ineract together, and you will see groups of friends act similar on social media, so it is based on who you are and who you associate yourself with. People just need to let other people be who they are as long as they dont go overboard.


  10. jaemillz411 February 22, 2015 / 2:30 pm

    I agree with your post. Everyone utilizes the Internet differently because every one of us is different. We cannot help it. And it is true that racism/sexism has a bigger platform because of the Internet. It can reach a wider audience in a shorter amount of time. It has become effortless to offend people because our computer screens or cellular device shield us from the reaction and outcome of the offense.

    But the Internet also provides a platform for people to share their experiences and help campaigns against cyber -bullying like Coca Cola’s #MakeItHappy, #DeleteCyberbullying, Cybersmile, and #MeanStinks. Now more than ever people are able to find ways to fight back ignorance, intolerance, and hatred. No matter is created, there will be people in this world that will misuse and take advantage of the resource.

    So I do not think the answer in changing the Internet. We should not get rid of anonymity because just like the Internet shields people with bad intentions, it also shields others with good intentions. We need to changes ourselves first. Because we cannot blame the Internet for bullying and class divisions because these problems did not originate through the Web, they are manifest here. The problem is in the world we live in.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lewenzel93 February 22, 2015 / 2:52 pm

    To answer your question about being divided online, before reading this week’s articles, I would have said no, not really. There is always going to be trolling and hate on the internet, but I wouldn’t have really pegged that as a racial divider. I always was inclined to believe because of the amount of anonymity available to us, such divisions would be contended. However, I’m starting to see that that’s not always possible. This amount of anonymity is actually more negative than positive. People hide behind their computer screens is cowardly, but you’re right, they use this as cover to say hateful, racist things and are not held accountable for their actions.
    And yes, everyone uses the internet differently, like you pointed out in your example of how black people created certain hashtags. I view this as a really good thing, though! It’s a way to experience that sense of culture shock from your own home. The internet is always evolving and this is a such a good way to experience every aspect of it, while also bringing different races together.


  12. galaradi February 22, 2015 / 5:34 pm

    Racism is unfortunately a big issue we have to deal with nowadays. This is not a new phenomenon, it has been plaguing our communities since before the Internet. With the Internet and social media, there is a tendency for people to be more comfortable saying whatever they want. Therefore, people will be more mean, racist, and bully each other behind a screen.

    With the hate crime that occurred in Chapel Hill towards the three Muslims, the racist comments on the internet against Muslims increased. This has to do with the media, and how it portrays Muslims. Some media outlets claim he shot the three Muslims over a “parking dispute” which denounces the serious threat some racists have against Muslims.

    Here is an example of a racist comment that was found on Twitter after the Chapel Hill shooting:
    Highlighted anchor text here

    Of course community members were upset and the account of this man is suspended (yay Twitter!).

    Events that occur around the world factor in to how people react on the Internet. Hate crimes or terrorist attacks can provoke people to generalize against a specific group of people.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. seananthony3 February 22, 2015 / 6:25 pm

    I had a realization some time last year when someone continuously posted articles on my Facebook feed in favor of limiting welfare for those in need and it is very nice to see evidence in favor of my claims. Online, you will see a lot of people posting about how there are plenty of lower class members that don’t need welfare and that they should simply “get a job.” They state “examples” about how they can afford a new phone and internet, but not food for their family. This is largely untrue. Only 59% of people have a cell phone in families making under $30,000 a year. That’s a little over half. This means that they are a lot of lower class members that don’t have a voice online and this is what I believe to be an issue with discussing these problems online. Those that truly need the help aren’t given their fair voice.


  14. mwiedmeyer February 22, 2015 / 7:30 pm

    The problem with class and racial divisions online is that people tend to seek out other people with similar ideologies. This reinforces their current opinion, making it that much harder to change their mind. People have to want to educate themselves for anything to change, and while the web makes it very easy to learn about the struggle of other people, it also makes it very easy to ignore the plight of others. Another problem is that, as you noted, lower class individuals don’t have as much access to technology, making their voices heard through the filter of others (for example, an article written about poverty in the New York Times). Unfortunately, if net neutrality is compromised, the gap in representation for those with lesser means would only be widened.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. asibo February 22, 2015 / 7:42 pm

    In response to the question, “are we really divided online,” I would have to say yes, but simply because of the explicitly racist language that is so willfully tossed around online. I think the biggest divide that is created online is not due to the appearance component of race or ethnicity, but the language of online and offline subcultures. Ethnic language, for example, might be the biggest barrier that divides people online, such as how social media sites such as Orkut are divided. Danah Boyd demonstrates in “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites” that though Orkut is the dominant social media site in both Brazil and India, and that “they share the
    site but the Indians and Brazilians barely interact with one another” (5). Dialectic language, whether it be derived from virtual communities or real life communities, also serve to separate people from one another online. For example, it doesn’t take long to notice that the type of language and the idiosyncrasies on Twitter are much different from those on Tumblr. Regional, socio-economical, and educational backgrounds also shape one’s command and usage of language and variants, which can serve to distance people from one another online.

    Liked by 1 person

    • asibo February 22, 2015 / 7:43 pm

      EDIT: First sentence should read “*not* simply because of the explicitly racist language that is so willfully tossed around online.” Significant difference there.


  16. kevinpayton1 February 22, 2015 / 9:07 pm

    I believe that there is racial divide on the Internet, but I see it more as a class divide. The article by S. Craig Watkins to me addressed the real issue of affordability of access to the Internet. Most homes in rural/urban areas are less likely to have Broadband Internet. The cost of the service may not be practical for homes with single parents or on fixed incomes. I have also noticed that the mobile industry did change their marketing tactics to target those individuals with lack of access to home Internet by offering prepaid mobile plans that come with bigger internet packages. The majority of social media users in the inner cities are more than likely to use their mobile devices to surf the web rather than computers. Another issue that could studied at as far as the divide on the Internet is also how many minorities have access to computers for purpose other than scholarly or work. I thought the article about how black people use Twitter was absurd. It reminds me of the curiosity of earlier generations over black or urban music. How music was not universal, but black music and white music. I thought music was music. That’s why I prefer Jazz, the one genre of music that does not have as many racial divides. No one says Kenny G, or Boney James are doing black jazz.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. doniecew February 22, 2015 / 9:36 pm

    I think there is definitely a social division online. But the division is kind of by choice, we have a choice of who we follow or who we choose to follow us. I think that most people online are open. Racism definitely exists as well. That’s anywhere you go. People are more comfortable saying whatever they want to say through a screen. I think that a lot of comments are made through fake pages, as a joke. There are various reasons as to racism and such.


  18. Jason Robinson February 22, 2015 / 9:53 pm

    I enjoy the question that was raised by this author. I also agreed with some of my cohorts to the extent that racism hasn’t become greater, but more people have become aware.

    I think this is a good thing. I believe more people should expose all the ism’s. A good portion while so much of why racism exist today is because in some groups its cool, and there was once shelter for such behaviors, but with a more open society, more things get exposed.

    I have a personal dream that social media can also turn inward to some of the structural deficiencies within America that was built with racism in mind. This would be some of the laws.

    Most people don’t know that slavery is still legal in the United States.

    This nuance provides cover, and opportunity for the New Jim Crown: The Prison Industrial Complex.

    Anyhow, solid read.


  19. blcarr February 22, 2015 / 9:59 pm

    Social media does not make racism worse, it just makes it more known. It still exist, everyday when I attend class, I see racism is a problem. There are so many times that I want to react and lay hands on these clowns, be it authority or students, but I am too close to graduation and I am not letting nothing get in my way. Racism lives through social media, video games, blog sites ect. Its in everyday life. Someone posted “racism depends of class” no! it depends on parenting and the society you were brought up in.


  20. mstor763 February 22, 2015 / 10:22 pm

    In relation to the question of whether the internet has made us (races) more divided, I personally think it has….to an extent. I lot of people above that I am reading are using the phrase “it does not make it worse, its just more known” Although this has truth in it, I feel people are overlooking the obvious addition of the fuel to the fire. I would have to believe that not many people would have known about the Ferguson case if it wasn’t for social media. I understand the premise that this made us more “known” of issues that happen in our society/world, but it also creates an arousal out of people. This arousal fuels people more than it would have if they were not subjected to it, therefor making matters worse, but does it really matter? Ultimately, racism is and always have been alive. Its something that is imprinted into our society and we even learn about it in k-12 education.

    To the article, I understand a lot of this is very sensitive material and a tough topic to talk about. I feel that people are constantly walking in the internet realm with blinders on and not realizing what is truly happening around them. When they do widen those blinders they are quickly shut back down to do other peoples sour reaction. This dilemma that has been portrayed in your article is not just a race thing, its a people thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. smkiraco February 22, 2015 / 11:09 pm

    We are definitely divided, but I never thought of it in terms of race. I did think of it in terms income and availability but race is implicit in that definition. I guess I just never thought of it that way. Regardless, harassment and slander still runs rampant across many lines: gender, race, political affiliations, and more. The Internet is a giant catalyst for unfiltered responses.


  22. thegradytrain February 22, 2015 / 11:50 pm

    I still think we are still divided on while being online, but we are divided on very different levels than the divisions we have in real life. In reality, we are divided by a lot of different factors like race, financial status, sexual preference, etc. On the internet, we are divided by different factors as well, like browsing habits, social group/network preference, where we stand on issues, etc. In general, I think we are divided in reality by more visual or surface factors, while on the internet we are divided by more personal, habitual, or psychological factors, because these factors are usually not apparent initially in reality.

    In response to your last comment, I would say that the internet hasn’t necessarily made bigotry more intense. It has certainly made bigotry much more easier to commit as well as made it much more viral. In the past, bigotry in reality can mostly be localized. On the internet, bigotry can easily transcends all sorts of boundaries can spread considerably faster than in real life. The unfortunate and scary thing is how bigotry on the internet causes a spread that transcends into reality. I think the one you mentioned with the #KillAllMuslims event is a prime example of this. It certainly is chilling to see bigotry on the internet create a sort of negative synergy or acrimony with bigotry in reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. cseejay February 23, 2015 / 5:08 am

    Regarding the question about individuals being more racist, I think is somewhat misleading. Like stated, now that the policing system on the social spectrum isn’t similar to reality. The fact that you can say anything without punishment is a problem, and without rules the amount of bullying and racism is extremely prevalent. I don’t think the amount of racism on social media has anything to do with an emergence of racist individuals, I think most of the people you see online are the people that you cross in your daily lives. This sounds cynical, but I think do to the online space, you can be the worst of worst possible, just because you can be. I don’t think individuals are more divided online today compared to before, I just think it’s more apparent where individuals interest are online. Because we have such an unfiltered view on people online, it’s easier to track what people are interested in and how they behave. I think you have to carefully pick and choose where you read comments and engage yourself in discussions because certain sites tend to carry more trolls more than others. Ultimately the only way to fix many of these issues is by having companies patrol their sites closely.


  24. Emily Rader March 1, 2015 / 12:11 pm

    Race and class certainly effect the way use the internet, I think. The first thing I thought of while reading this was my best friend. Though I met her here at UM-D, we come from polar opposite backgrounds. My best friend was born in Pakistan and went to a boarding high school in India. Most of her relatives are back in Pakistan and India and they all use an app called “What’s App” (I think that’s how it’s spelled?!) to communicate. I remember her telling me how she talks to her overseas relatives on a regular basis and I asked “But aren’t those long distance fees expensive?” Nope. This is when she told me about this app they all use to communicate and bypass those charges. While almost everyone in her culture uses this app, I had never even heard of it! That’s one great example of how different races use the web in different ways. Once she told me about it though, I thought it was so cool that she could communicate with her family from thousands of miles away in a whole other country without long distance costs. Though it has negative aspects like cyber bullying, the internet has come leaps and bounds with it’s positives as well.


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