Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bridging The Great Social Networking Divide



Here is a rare spice of life story for you.   It seems there are people who get paid....(Yes there is always someone somewhere who gets paid) to watch Black social trends are saying that Black folks are increasing in numbers as far as users of Facebook , Twitter, Blogger and now Tumblir is concerned.  If you catch the drift of my title...We are bridging the gap between the great social networking divide baby!!!

According to no more than two articles I've read on the subject ,the influx of Blacks on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook is increasing day by day and like music , sports and other art forms, it seems as though we are adding our creativity and cultural tilt to it.

There is the constant well of verbal creativity. It's not what you'd call great writing, by a long shot. But that's not the point. Not all that we write is actually quote unquote classic or great writing. This is why worries about what email and blogging are doing to "writing" are misplaced; Emailing is really speech, except with the fingers. A little humor there...I know...Very little.

Needless to say, Facebook ,Twitter (and even Blogging to some extent) is more of this new written speech, and even more like speech in its restriction to 140 characters (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr)It's casual speech that comes in packets of seven to 10 words. Face book and Twitter are now home to dazzlingly articulate speech, and if that's by more black people proportionately than one might expect, then this is even better.

I could just hear one of my old high school english teachers now..."OH My God..Inappropriate capitals, no apostrophe in "its," funky punctuation. No, no -- If we are going to understand this new part of our culture and by that, I'm not just talking about Black culture, but culture period..then we have to begin by expanding our sense of just what language is or has become.

(I think this blog post is beginning to read like a Facebook status update or a tweet!)See, even in the case of the missing apostrophe -- This conveys that this is a real person living and talking to you right now, quite germane to this willfully humble little scene. Even if they left the apostrophe out by accident -- and the person probably did -- I, if "editing" the Tweet or status update, would make sure it stayed out. There is a kind of art here if you look for it. Twitter and Facebook means black people being articulate with one another, live, nationwide and 24-7. I say go for it...I love it..


Remember a few years ago people (the same folks that get paid to study black trends)were saying that black America was getting left on the wrong side of the digital divide? Have you noticed that this has started to sound a little 1993? Twitter and Facebook as well as Blogger can be seen as the official end of this take on black America.

There was an article in the Atlantic Monthly in 1999 that earnestly argued that technology "has not been black people's friend," and history has made us shy of it. Even then, the legions of black people cherishing their VCRs and Discmans would have been surprised at this gloomy conclusion.It was just another gloom and doom message that has since been proven untrue, but yet is marketed as the truth over and over by whoever gets paid to study and speak on black trends...You can bet that these people aren't black...and therefore they sometimes taint their findings with their own personal agendas....I'm not sayin that they lie, I'm just sayin....

It is true that Black Americans (myself included) were getting online a lot less than their white counterparts, but Economics(money ,honey)  had a lot more to do with this than culture, and we've come a long way since then -- Laptop ownership is now about even among the races. And now we have a concrete smackdown to the notion that there is, or ever was, something anti-technological in being black in the 21st century. With Twitter and Facebook we now have something quite "technological" that black people are more into than anyone else. Or so it seems...

Not only are black people using Facebook and Twitter a lot, but the black comedy style and phraseology of the times is calling the tune to a considerable extent, catching on among all Social Networkers. This is part of something that has happened over the past 20 years and is little remarked upon, the African Americanization of American language.

I remember about ten years ago when I was still in the Air Force...I was in Japan..I was out on a street corner and these Japanese teenagers were dressed like the homeboys on 52nd street in my native, Philadelphia...They were quoting Jay-Z, 50 Cent and other popular hip hop artists or that time verbatim....So see, Black Culture has already spread worldwide...thanks to MTV, VH-1, BET and cable networks that are watched globally...The reason why I bring that up is because ...that was 2001...Those Asian teenagers are adults now...Wanna make a bet, when they're not at work and having a beer..they're still talking and jiving each other just like that?

At my job, I listen to a group of 20-something white males having drinks after work on the rare occassion that I join them.. You wouldn't mistake them for black men if you couldn't see them -- but close your eyes and listen and they don't sound anything like their equivalents on Mad Men, either. It's about more than speech -- it's communication in general. Watch the way they hug when greeting one another or taking leave. Among this demographic, the handshake now comes off as a bit stiff. And these guys' favorite music is just as likely to be hip hop as anything else. It cracks me up...They give each other dap and they fist bump just like Barack and Michelle. (Thing is...Me and my partners were doing that years before Barack and Michelle made that a national phenom!)

But I've gone all willy nilly on you...All of this is just  black "flava," if you will, in folks who would be perplexed to be told of it. That is, it's the real them -- their subconscious, spontaneous way of being. America talks blacker now than ever before. Hell,  America is blacker now. What black music did for America is now happening with language -- so much so, that it is only predictable that  Facebook &Twitter's toastmasters are disproportionately black., Or so they say....

It does seem like in the past few years, everybody and their grandmother has gotten a Facebook page and or a Twitter account...I just find it all fascinating and amusing...but then I would...We crossin the great digital divide baby! One tweet, status update and blogpost at a time!

1 comment:

Rich Fitzgerald said...

This great crossing of the digital divide is still in large part due to economics. Cell phones are allowing greater access. Lower income families still aren't purchasing computers in great numbers, although they are cheaper than ever, but they are taking these "freebie" (tied to a two year contract) deals from cell phone companies.

No matter how we get access, it's a good thing. We need to broaden our horizons, expand the depths of our waters and sometimes that only comes by rubbing up next to someone who has lived a different experience.

Like everything else we touch, we takin' over social networking too. So much for the "elite" vision held by the Winklevoss' and their Harvard Connection.




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