Ethnography of the University / Ethnography of the University: Focus on Knowledge 2020 / Undergraduate Ethnography

When What is Right is What is Popular, By Kaylee Tang (Ethnography of the University 2020: Focus on Knowledge)

This blog post was part of the coursework for the Ethnographic Practicum course, “Ethnography of the University 2020: Focus on Knowledge.” It was originally posted in the category “Online Communities.”

With the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, many of my friends were sharing popular posts supporting Black Lives Matter. While I appreciated the sentiment of supporting a noble cause and movement, I was disappointed at the popularity of posts that chose to exclude others or police others use of social media. “Unfollow me if you disagree with BLM.” “If you don’t publicly support BLM I will unfollow you.” “The silence from some of my friends is deafening.”

            The new-found popularity of cleansing your follower list (and by extension your friend list) of those who disagreed with you felt more like a badge of ignorance. Rather than participate in open discussion or debate, many were choosing to segregate based on opinion or vaguely express their disdain. Unfortunately, this is not a unique experience on social media.

When social morals are publicly policed, movements that have no benefit and possibly cause more damage are amplified as social trends. The phrase “silence is violence” was warped across social media into a frenzy of unfollowing and calling out both friends and celebrities in the context of BLM – originally a movement meant to validate and emphasize the importance of Black lives in the face of police brutality. Instead of improving relationships across boundaries of racism and race, boundaries were reinforced by the oppositional labeling, police officers were demonized, and damaging social media ‘rules’ were created.

            My research centers the concept of veridiction – truth which is considered truth through a specific world view. The practice I have described above is one of the many forms in which veridiction can be a negative result of an online echo chamber as many will latch onto a movement without engaging critically with it.

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