Black social-media users are nearly as twice as likely as whites to see race-focused content on social media, according to a Pew Research Center study published on Monday.
The study, “Social Media Conversations About Race,” showed that there is a stark divide in how black and white Americans talk about race on social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Sixty-eight percent of black social-media users surveyed by Pew report seeing at least some race-related posts on their feeds, while only 35% of white users do.
The gap isn’t limited to what users see, but also to what users post. Twenty-eight percent of black social-media users told Pew that most or some of what they post is about race or relations, compared to 8% of whites. Nearly two-thirds of white users said that nothing they post or share pertains to race, according to the study.
It is perhaps unexpected that Pew found that people who regularly talk about race tend to see and share race-focused posts on social media, given that Facebook’s news-feed algorithm adapts to user behavior.
What is perhaps more striking is that the study found that black social-media users who rarely or never discuss race are more likely to see race-related content on social media than whites who frequently talk about race by a margin of 55% to 41%, respectively.
A Pew analysis found that 995 million race-related tweets were posted from January 1, 2015, through March 31, 2016, meaning that, on average, there were 2.1 million tweets per day about race. By contrast, about 500 million tweets in total were posted on Twitter each day in 2015, meaning that tweets mentioning race made up about 0.04% of all tweets posted.
Some researchers and activists credit social media for increasing national conversations about race and racial inequality. According to Twitter, #Ferguson was the top social hashtag in the 10-year history of the platform, while #BlackLivesMatter was No. 3.
“Social media also can serve as an important venue where groups with common interests come together to share ideas and information,” study authors Monica Anderson and Paul Hitlin wrote. “And at times, Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites can help users bring greater attention to issues through their collective voice.”
Tweets with the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag were initially largely supportive of the movement between July 2013, when it first came out, and the end of March 2016, Pew reported.
But there was a dramatic rise in critical tweets using the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, according to the Pew analysis, from July 5 to 17, 2016, that looked at tweets in the aftermath of the shootings of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
The survey was based on interviews from February 29, to May 8, 2016, among a national sample of 3,769 adults.