Study: Racial slurs saturate social media

Image by Josh Semans courtesy of Creative Commons.

Irech Colon/Staff Writer

Curtis Antoine has grown accustomed to using racial slurs in his social media posts.

“Yess n*ggg* yess! Haahaa my boi jojo. That’s how you handle sh*t my n*gg*,” the freshman from engineering recently tweeted.

A recent study determined the daily number of racial and ethnic slurs written on Twitter in a nine-day period after overuse of the “report abuse” button: 10,000 tweets-per-day involving racial slurs in the English language alone.

Slurs are defined in the study as “a set of words, terms or nicknames used to refer to groups in a society in a derogatory, pejorative or insulting manner.”

Although Antoine was referring his comment to a close friend, other users on Twitter may disagree with this type of language and take offense to it. The problem in regards to this report, however, is that it has become common and normal to see, to the point where it has generally been accepted.

“The last thing I would have thought is it would offend somebody, it’s just slang amongst friends,” he said.

Raul Reis, dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, says social media has lost its primitive touch.

“Something is getting lost,” he said. “Words are being used casually without noticing the impact it may have on others.”

Reis said as a professor, however, it is essential to inform students of the powerfulness of social media just as traditional media has been, regardless of freedom of speech.

“There is no disagreement with freedom of speech, we try to teach the ethics and the social responsibility that should come together in speech,” Reis said.

When introducing the study to other students, Idelis Martinez, freshmen and public relations major,  strongly disagreed with the use of racial slurs on social networks. Although not an avid tweeter, Martinez’s thoughts concurred together with those included in the study.

According to Demos, racial and ethnic slurs can be placed on a blurred line towards hate speech, but a key finding was the significant amount of tweets that were not derogatory or meant to be offensive. Instead, it has supplied a critical preface of what a community of certain people are like based on their way of response and language in an online space.

“I do not use any slurs on twitter, my friends do not use these terms often, if at all,” Martinez said.

Antoine’s personal community has different social norms that reflect on their use of language and post differently than other tweeters like Martinez, however.

Race has also been a factor in this genre of linguistics. African Americans have allocated the term n*gg*r as a way to joke or express closeness with a friend.

Nevertheless, it has been utilized to present offense between races as well.

“When these words have been used so much, I don’t believe it has the same impact offensively,” Antoine said, “It is now just a way of talk, evolution.”

“The aggregate impact, 10, 000 tweets potentially is when they are repeated over and over ,” Reis said. “You cannot really justify using words that obviously have a racial history of attacking and offending people for no reason at all.”

Users become publishers and communicators when posting on Facebook or Twitter.

“People go on the internet to enjoy themselves, not to be offended or emotionally abused,” Martinez said.


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