(11th and 12th Grade Category)
3rd prize: Muhammad Siddiqui of Piscataway, NJ
Topic: Combating racial injustice in the age of social media
Title: SOCIAL MEDIA: A World On Fire
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter provide an anonymous forum for people to share their flawed views and ideals online without consequence. Furthermore, the echo chamber effect of social media reinforces these racist attitudes by only presenting users with information that supports their existing beliefs. As a result, social media instigates racism by giving people a platform to share their bigotry and by confirming their preexisting prejudices, as a result of confirmation bias.
Social media is a breeding ground for racist attitudes and behaviors because it provides anonymity, and creates echo chambers. The anonymity of social media provides a platform for people to express their racist views without fear of consequences. Without having to face any repercussions, people are more comfortable espousing their prejudices. This has created an environment in which racism can flourish, as those with more extreme views feel more secure in sharing them. As a result, we are seeing an increase in the number of openly racist views shared on social media. The prevalence of these views can make it more difficult for those who disagree with them to be heard. It can also cause people to become desensitized to racism, making it easier for them to accept it as a norm. This has wide-reaching implications, as it can lead to a lack of understanding and acceptance of different cultures and beliefs. The anonymity of social media must be addressed by combating racism and creating a more inclusive society. Evidence of this can be seen through the increasing amount of hate speech on social media, “Past research indicates that 10%–25% of adolescents of color have experienced online racial discrimination directed toward them individually, and between 33% and 70% have experienced online racial discrimination vicariously.” This excerpt clearly illustrates the amount of hate speech and racial discrimination present on social media. This magnifies the long-standing issue that social media has acted as a catalyst for the spread of racist tendencies. Regulating this type of content is vital otherwise we risk the sanctity of society as we know it. Social media can create echo chambers, an environment where a person only encounters information or opinions that reinforce their own bias. This can lead to a dangerous cycle in which people become increasingly more likely to turn towards racist ideals without ever being exposed to any alternate viewpoints. Evidence of this effect can be found in the following study done by the cities of Bochum and Hannover in Germany where a correlation was found between anti-refugee Facebook posts by the far-right German party and attacks on refugees, “average anti-refugee sentiment in our data constant (84 posts), this means one standard deviation higher right-wing social media usage is associated with 10% higher probability of an anti-refugee incident relative to the mean,” It is concluded from this research that those exposed to right-wing social media are 10% more likely to engage in anti-refugee violence. This type of behavior threatens the very sanctity of our society, as it can act as a deterrent to meaningful dialogue and understanding between different groups. It is therefore important for social media users to be aware of the echo chambers they may be creating and seek out alternate points of view.
In conclusion, social media fosters racism, as users are allowed to share their prejudiced views and hateful ideals anonymously and without consequence. Users can anonymously express their biased opinions without repercussions, which results in the creation of echo chambers; when users only receive information that supports their preexisting opinions. This is a concern as this sort of environment can facilitate the spread of racism.