Brace yourselves! Because I am going to do away with this idea that Social Media is horizontal, democratic and a valid means to get your story out there. Moreover, I am about to show you how Social Media is just another White, kyriarchical, status-quo upholding, oppressive medium. You know, just like the rest of the world.
Let’s look at Tumblr as an example. According to figures released this week, this blogging platform is even bigger than WordPress, even though it’s only four years old. Tumblr currently hosts 85,000 blogs more than WordPress, even though WordPress had a four year headstart in this endeavor. With 20+ million blogs, Tumblr is being hailed by specialists as the next darling of Social Media.
Tumblr is also attempting something relatively novel: curating relevant, user generated content in specific areas. There are these “Tumblr endorsed topics” that are selected by a group of dedicated editors that highlight the issues that matter on a given day. Tumblr has supposedly selected these editors to represent a wide spectrum of opinions and backgrounds. So, let’s look at the Politics section to see how representative of a global and (supposedly) inclusive Social Media platform these editors are:
[Image Description: a screen capture of Tumblr’s curated political section. A blue background with a list of Editors that contains the names of: azspot, washingtonexaminer, thepoliticalpartygirl, peterfeld, alexholzbach, thenewrepublic, thepoliticalnotebook, shortformblog, laliberty, motherjones, jeffmiller and nationaljournal. This list is followed by another list, of Top Contributors, that contains the names of: robertreich, ilyagarner, zachvaughn, brooklynmutt, combattant-de-la-liberte, evilteabagger, pantslessprogressive, kohenari, producermatthew and politicalprof].
Oh, is that a gasp I hear from the crowd? That’s right! Out of 12 editors and 10 top contributors we only have two women and an abundance of White, male faces (and well established news organizations). Moreover, one of the top editors that Tumblr has handpicked to curate the political content of its platform is a known anti-abortion activist, a person whose hate speech against women would surely put him in a risky position if Tumblr wanted to at least give the appearance of inclusion and fairness. This person, who curates the content that 20+ million other users see on a daily basis, is also an activist against Affirmative Action (and who claims that Affirmative Action is a modern form of slavery) and regularly posts those fake scare abortion photos that anti choice activists are so keen on using against reproductive justice (Possible trigger warning, the photo is fake but gruesome). Perhaps Tumblr should do away with any pretense and just rename this section “American, White and Male! The way it’s always been and the way we would prefer to keep it!”. Because that’s another thing: the idea of Politics in Tumblr (a corporation that aims at a global presence and reach) is to curate only American political content. There is no area where issues from the rest of the world are highlighted (with the exception of circumstantial topics created to keep track of the ongoing conflicts in the Arab world which are curated mostly by, you guessed it, American people with no personal relation or ties with the area).
If you thought that Social Media was an opportunity to do away with the hegemony that perpetuates oppression against minorities, think again. Because right now the gatekeepers to the relevant content that could get your story out there, to a wider audience are the kind of people with the least interest in allowing your stories to be heard. Moreover, if you thought you could do any sort of far reaching grass roots organizing using Tumblr, I urge you to reconsider, because chances are that some of those who should highlight your efforts are actively working against you.