Sometimes I am told that I spend entirely too much time on social media sites such as Facebook. In fact, in a former relationship it created a tremendous source of tension unfortunately. While I do agree that I can sometimes spend an exorbitant amount of time reading, posting, and engaging in discourse on Facebook, I feel it is not without valid reasoning. You see for me, I have always been interested in engaging in meaningful conversations and sharing socially relevant information – particularly as it pertains to issues of race and inequality. I have nearly 3,000 friends on Facebook (which I am happy to say of most I have a connection with since I am a relatively guarded person) from all walks of life that cut across all demographics (race, class, sexual orientation, etc.). Very few spaces, in my opinion, allow such a platform for information dissemination across a wide-ranging viewership. It brings me a great deal of joy to share new information, controversial outlooks, and debate-sparking articles that encourage dialogue and thinking that perhaps would not have happened or been seen to my social media friends had I not posted it. In my privilege of being able to pursue higher education and study intensively issues of inequality, I have always tried to remain grounded in my interests to use the knowledge gained through my conventional educational route in unconventional ways. Social media, Facebook in particular, has provided that platform for me. This manifestation has been most evident with a segment of the population to which I am most interested in sharing information with – those from underprivileged background who mostly due to structural inequalities have not had access to such knowledge and conversations. I am constantly receiving messages from my social media friends who say they use my Facebook page as a site for the location of socially relevant information for them. When I post articles, and put information out, it is seen by many who probably would not have seen or entertained such viewpoints and ideas unless it drifted across their Facebook feeds. This is especially salient in that younger generations of Americans are no longer reading print journalism like that of their predecessors, and even more true of those from underprivileged backgrounds. However, the beauty of social media, in conjunction with the rise of technology use by minority populations via phones, is that access to social media sites are now accessible to nearly everyone regardless of class background.
The information sharing on my Facebook is bi-directional in two important ways for me. One, it allows for cross-community dialogue between those from underprivileged backgrounds or identities and those from more privileged ones. This is particularly important for me because marginalized or underprivileged voices are almost never heard in the mainstream narrative around their positionality, yet they are usually ascribed thoughts based on faulty assumptions. Their participation in a dialogue that may ensue from a post gives them voice and visibility in the larger conversation via the platform and network that my Facebook provides. Second, the information and positions I share, informed by my lived experiences as a black male who came from an underprivileged background, contrast dominant ideologies and beliefs of my social media friends from more privileged and homogenous backgrounds and identities. This, perhaps, for many of them function as one of the few spaces in which they see informations and discussions that challenges their normative perceptions. This plays out a few different ways on my page. Primarily, this has been race – conversations with my white friends about issues of racial inequality. While I feel that my posts about race have alienated most of my white friends from engaging because of their uncomfortability talking or grappling with opposing views on the issue (a complex problem that I’ll save for another blog), the ones who do stick around and engage, the post have been extremely amazing and exciting on both ends of the dialogue. Other interesting ways conversations play out are along gender lines, and with religion and sexuality in the black community that usually incites intense, but informative conversations across the many variations of perspectives, identities, and positions of my Facebook friends. This is what makes my time spent on social media so meaningful and justifiable (….Hmmm I should have made this as clear to my ex LOL). This is one form of activism and advocacy for me. It also operates as a way of remaining grounded in a purpose as I pursue a career of lifelong learning. It is cathartic and part of my self-care, albiet some conversations really gets my blood boiling lol.
Now what I will say, however, is that my trajectory from an underprivileged environment to college and now grad school in different states and communities has given me a wide range of sustained interactions with a variety of different people to whom have become my “social media friends.” If my life experience had been one to which I came from and stayed in pretty homogenous spaces, then my variability in friends on Facebook may not have have positioned me to use this platform in the way I have as a space for information sharing. That being said, I hope that this blog will be another place to share my views and experiences with a diverse and captive audience!