Case Studies
Apr 1, 2013

Facebook, Racism Show Surprising Connection In New Study

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Facebook racism is something that you may see rear its head on random threads or interactions with people in particularly politicized groups — but a new study reveals that the social network may be affecting racial perceptions in entirely unexpected ways.

On Facebook, racism is certainly something that users see in shades of individual offense and personal perspective — essentially, what is racially insensitive to one user isn’t always necessarily viewed the same way among all Facebookers.

A new study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior looks at Facebook racism and seems to find that the more frequently a user logs in or uses the site, the more prone they are to absorbing negative racist sentiments.

More than 600 participants, nearly 70 percent of whom were female, participated in the Facebook racism study. Subjects were asked to read three different Facebook “notes” about race, each with a very different focus.

The first third were given what was termed a “superiority message,” insinuating white superiority. The second third of participants read a “victim message,” which suggested white people were the main victims of racist behavior, not black people.

The final third read what Facebook racism researchers called “the egalitarian message,” which was written to indicate the writer still believed that racism was an issue for black people. In the end, the more participants used Facebook, the more likely they were to identify with racist messages.

Researchers concluded:

The ability of racist messages to spread via social networks is of concern as people are increasingly using Facebook not only as a way to connecting with friends, but as a primary source of information. Frequent users are particularly disposed to be influenced by negative racial messages.

Less frequent Facebook users were more likely to identify with the “egalitarian message” than their constantly Facebooking peers.


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