Research

Women of Color Use Social Media For Social Change

According to people qualified to make generalized statements about women of color based on scientific analysis find that they use social media more frequently and in different ways from their White counterparts.

Women of color have always used social media for social change, regardless of what some might claim on these very same platforms. Case in point:

My immediate reaction was ?. I study the revolutionary power of Black women’s social media use and I’m not alone. I can name Catherine Steele, Dawn Dow, Tressie Cottom, Kishonna Gray… and I know most of these women personally. Black women who use social media as a platform to uplift other Black women do not get the recognition they deserve.

This isn’t for lack of effort as anyone who actually knew about Black women and social media use would tell you:

According to people qualified to make generalized statements about women of color based on scientific analysis, women of color use social media more frequently and in different ways from their White counterparts. For instance, a team of researchers1 wrote about several key findings in their survey of White and non-White social media users:

  1. Women of color are more likely to check Facebook for their social circle and stress relief
  2. Women of color are more likely to blog on platforms like Tumblr. They are also use alternative news sources like Colorlines or Racialious.
  3. People of color are more likely to turn to social media when having a bad day. Women of color provide likes and status to give others’ affirmation
  4. Women of color are likely to use friending/unfriending as a tactic for creating safer virtual spaces for their themselves and followers
  5. Lastly, women of color use social media to advance sociopolitical discourse, using their platform for social justice efforts and news that challenges conventional beliefs.

If scientists, particularly women of color scientists, can find evidence of women of color using their social media platforms, it begs the question why would someone perpetuate the notion that they don’t? Indeed, much of what Black women using social media to do constitutes what Kishonna Gray calls ‘Black Cyberfeminism.’ To that end, Black women use social media to accomplish several key goals:

  1. Redress lack of visibility in Mainstream media
  2. Bridge the Digital Divide
  3. Produce alternative and subversive forms of knowledge
  4. Raise consciousness about Black women’s issues
  5. Stand in solidarity with fellow women of color

Reading Suggestions on Women of Color and Social Media Use

I can only assume any claim women of color don’t use social media to the extent that white supremacist blondes do comes from a place of ignorance. Here’s a list of reading suggestions to stay informed:

  • Barner, Briana Nicole. 2016. “The Creative ( and Magical ) Possibilities of Digital Black Girlhood.” The University of Texas at Austin.
  • Brock, André. 2012. “From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 56(4):529–49.
  • Chatelain, Marcia and Kaavya Asoka. 2015. “Women and Black Lives Matter.” Dissent 62(3):54–61. Retrieved (https://muse.jhu.edu/content/crossref/journals/dissent/v062/62.3.chatelain.html).
  • Clark, Meredith D. 2014. “TO TWEET OUR OWN CAUSE: A MIXED-METHODS STUDY OF THE ONLINE PHENOMENON “BLACK TWITTER.” University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  • Cottom, Tressie McMillan. 2016. “Black CyberFeminism: Intersectionality, Institutions and Digital Sociology.” in Digital Sociologies, edited by J. Daniels, K. Gregory, and T. M. Cottom. Bristol: Policy Press.
  • Ellington, Tameka N. 2014. “Bloggers, Vloggers, and a Virtual Sorority: A Means of Support for African American Women Wearing Natural Hair.” Journalism and Mass Communication 4(9):552–64.
  • Macias, Kelly. 2015. “Tweeting Away Our Blues : An Interpretative Phenomenological Approach to Exploring Black Women ’ S Use of Social Media to Combat Misogynoir.” Nova Southeastern University. Retrieved (http://nsuworks.nova.edu/shss_dcar_etd).
  • Noble, Safiya Umoja. 2012. “Searching For Black Girls: Old Traditions In New Media.”
  • Noble, Safiya Umoja. 2013. “Google Search: Hyper-Visibility as a Means of Rendering Black Women and Girls Invisible.” Retrieved (http://ivc.lib.rochester.edu/google-search-hyper-visibility-as-a-means-of-rendering-black-women-and-girls-invisible/).
  • Noble, Safiya Umoja. 2016. “A Future for Intersectional Black Feminist Studies.” Scholar & Feminist Online 13(3):1–8.
  • Rickford, R. 2015. “Black Lives Matter: Toward a Modern Practice of Mass Struggle.” New Labor Forum 25(1):34–42. Retrieved (http://nlf.sagepub.com/lookup/doi/10.1177/1095796015620171).
  • Rightler-McDaniels, Jodi L. and Elizabeth M. Hendrickson. 2014. “Hoes and Hashtags: Constructions of Gender and Race in Trending Topics.” Social Semiotics 24(2):175–90. Retrieved (https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=95678465&site=ehost-livenhttp://www.tandfonline.com.ezp.lib.unimelb.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1080/10350330.2013.859355).
  • Tounsel, Timeka Nicol. 2015. “The Black Woman That Media Built: Content Creation, Interpretation, and the Making of the Black Female Self.” University of Michigan.

  1. Women of color cultivating virtual social capital : surviving and thriving / Linda Charmaraman, Bernice Huiying Chan, Temple Price, and Amanda Richer. Chapter 1 in Women of color and social media multitasking
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