The ‘positive’ side of racism and sexism on social media

by , under Enrique Tessieri

What do social media sites say about how we socialize and interact with others? What does it say about racism and sexism, which have mushroomed  on social media sites? Associate professor of digital journalism and social media at the University of British Columbia, Alfred Hermida, said that the problem of social media is the ‘undetermined’ nature and immediacy that technology creates.  

“Instant information encourages action rather than contemplation,” Hermida was quoted as saying on The Globe and Mail. “It fosters ardor rather than nuance.

Social media has become a forum and a platform for people’s ideas and social interaction. Racism and sexism are one of its big topics.

“In some ways I think that’s a good thing because it says this [racism and sexism] is an issue: there is something rotten in the state of society,” he said. “More troubling is that once people see this type of behavior, others may think it’s acceptable.”

Näyttökuva 2014-10-13 kello 11.22.45
Read full interview here.


Hermida states that social media is all about social capital.

“We want to have shared identity: ‘I’m sending you this video because we can find it funny together.’ That strengthens our social bonds. You’re confirming that yes, you’re like me.”

To add to what Hermida said, it’s not how some people interpret racist and sexist behavior but how politicians react to them. Is more racism and Islamophobia on social media a cue for them to be xenophobic?

Another interesting question to ask is what narratives are coming out of social media. Who has the authority and power to determine which of them will become the standard?

If guerrilla warfare showed that a small well-organized group can defeat vastly outnumbered armies like we saw in Czarist Russia, Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere, can the same happen on social media? Is social media a good platform to spark a revolution as we saw in the Arab Spring with Tweeter? Are global surveillance groups like the NSA and GCHQ invincible? What has Edward Snowden showed showed by unmasking them?

Is the anti-immigration movement in Finland, spearheaded by groups like the Perussuomalaiset,* Suomen Sisu, an extremist association, and others, good examples that a minority can hold hostage the silence of politicians and society at large?

Was the PS election victory of 2011 caused by and large by social media and our reaction to it?

All questions and something to think about.


* The Finnish name for the Finns Party is the Perussuomalaiset (PS). The English names of the party adopted by the PS, like True Finns or Finns Party, promote in our opinion nativist nationalism and xenophobia. We therefore prefer to use the Finnish name of the party on our postings.Thank you Pia Grochowski for the heads up!