Online conversation must turn into offline action
Historically, the digital divide was defined as people who had computer access compared to those without. Today, researchers understand that many other factors influence the digital divide. Research suggests that the offline inequalities are mirrored online.
The socioeconomic status measured by income, occupational status, social background and education predict Internet usage. People will higher socioeconomic status are associated with more expressive Internet usage.
The Internet is a changing, expanding platform. People must be taught how to use. Since the rise of the Internet, people have been taught what is appropriate to post and what is not. They also have learned the dangers associated with online community. Yet, who is teaching people the power of the Internet to be used to maximize their voice. People must understand there is more to the Internet than social media and entertainment. A person’s social pattern is a reflection of what they think is important. For example, my last 20 Twitter posts include topics such as the Oscars, closing the racial economic gap, the Louisiana government and links to my blog.
I am aware of what I share and repost. I want to make sure my social profile aligns with who I am as a person. #IfTheyGunnedMeDown justifies why social image is so important to control. The hashtag raised the question, “What picture will (the media) use?” Users argued that the media will choose less flattery pictures of African Americans, holding up gang signs or other inappropriate behavior, if they were killed by police. Users posted two pictures side by side, one that someone could deem inappropriate and other portraying themselves in a positive light.
My argument to the hashtag is why give people an option to portray you in a negative light. People must be more conscience of their social brand. It can stop a person from getting into college, joining an organization and even a job. Yet, I understand the cultural acceptance associated with a lot of people’s actions. danah boyd explained that many people’s social profile is more of a way of surviving in their real environments.
In order to fill the digital gap, society must fix the disadvantages of the offline community. People need better opportunities to learn and grow. We need better schools; therefore, people can make a better living. Families and neighborhoods need to be mended. A stronger focus on building smarter children will translate for better, productive online communication. More educated people will allow for more insightful online conversations. Without the foundations of stronger education and families, the online conversation will continue to suffer.
Studies show people with higher levels of education and income will positively impact a person’s online participation. People with a higher level of education understand that the opportunities awarded with the online community. They are “expected to use the Internet in more capital-enhancing ways.”
Research shows uneducated people often use the Internet for social media and entertainment purposes. That may be for several reasons. Uneducated people may not believe that they are capable of conversing on the political spectrum. They may believe that the politics is far too confusing, too difficult to understand. This, however, is not true. People must use the Internet to educate themselves and force politicians to recognize their needs and concerns.
Similar to offline, the voices of the poor are easy to ignore when they are silent. Uneducated people must be taught to how to properly use this platform, especially for political awareness. The Internet is a powerful tool to help spread awareness. Online participation allows for building online communities, fostering self-help and mutual support, and facilitating agenda-setting efforts. “The shape and scope of the participation divide are contingent upon the type of content created by the user.”
Many people use social media to illustrate their frustration. In 2015, some of the top hashtags on social media included #LoveWins #BlackLivesMatter, #DonaldTrump, #IStandWithAhmed and #IStandWithPlannedParenthood. This shows an important intersection between social media and political content.
The #BlackLivesMatter movement uses the social platform to create online conversation and offline action. The organizers use social media to educate, organize and demand reform. The movement is a good example of how people must be educated to know they can use their social network to change the world around them. Yet, the social platform must translate to offline action. Online political comments don’t create digital democracy if it doesn’t invoke offline participation.
DeRay Mckesson, Civil Rights activist and a Black Lives Matter member, understands that online participation must be translated offline to make a different. Mckesson rose to social media popularity after protests in Ferguson, Mo., after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a white officer in August 2014. In February, Mckesson announced he was running for mayor of Baltimore. He has more than 313,000 followers on Twitter. His campaign must convert online support into real votes. Without it, he won’t be elected.