Study shows that racial segregation is still painfully real on social media

If you are anything like me, you probably get your daily news from social media. Every morning I log on to Twitter and Facebook to see what my politically savvy friends are posting and take a look at the day’s trending stories. Barely a day goes by that I don’t see a post (or 50) about race. A new survey from the Pew Research Center found that’s because what I see in my timeline is influenced by the color of my skin.


The survey, entitled “Social Media Conversations About Race,” analyzed the use of race-related content across racial and ethnic groups. The researchers surveyed over 3, 700 participants and performed a thorough analysis of public tweets. 995 million tweets between Jan 1, 2015, and Mar 31, 2016, were about race. That’s an average of 2.1 million per day. That’s a lot of tweets!


Most race-related posts, around 60 percent, revolved around current events such as Ferguson or the Grammys. And the two most used hashtags were #BlackLivesMatter and #Ferguson. The study also found that only 35 percent of white people were likely to see race-related content on their feed. Black users accounted for the most likely with 68 percent and Latinx users fell somewhere in the middle with 54 percent. When it came to actually sharing content, the same pattern occurred.  27 percent of black users reported at least some of their posts were about race, versus 20 percent of Latinx users, and 8 percent of white users. These numbers may seem alarming but not surprising when you consider three-quarters of white people only have white friends.

There’s a lot of important information in the report that I suggest you read through. While it’s encouraging to see the number of people discussing racial issues on social media, it’s a little troubling to learn most of the discussions are segregated across racial and ethnic groups. We are basically just preaching to our own choirs. It’s also disconcerting that most of the discussions on race are only occurring within communities severely affected by it. How are we going to experience racial justice if only those disproportionately affected are informed on racial issues? We can’t expect change to occur if people are not exposed to the reality of each other’s lives. Not everyone experiences education, employment, wealth or even housing the same way. For example, did you know the median wealth for single white women is $41,000, while the median wealth for single black women is $100 and single Latina women is $120?! The difference is astronomical!

Social media was created to forge and sustain connections. Why not also use it as a tool for education and important discourse across the aisle? After posting the day’s cutest cat video, share an article on why “well-off black families end up living in poorer areas than white families with similar or even lower incomes.

To learn more about the different ways racism manifests and intersects across institutions and society, check out Race Forwards’ video series below. And SHARE!

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