28 May 2018

Social media mob: Being Indigenous online

The study was designed to provide a better understanding of how Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make use of online network sites. The study was interested in exploring: the extent and nature of the uptake of social media by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people; whether the use of social media has changed the way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people think about both their identity and community; and new practices of identity and community that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people perform online. The research found that while social media enabled some respondents to feel more connected with their own sense of identity, others find that identifying as Indigenous online is a source of real anxiety. More than half the respondents indicated that they are selective about what they post online as they fear that others may respond negatively, or even violently. For many participants, social media has become a ‘new meeting place’. It helps keep community connected even though communities may be physically disbursed and reconnects people who have been separated.  However it can also exacerbate existing community tensions. In some cases, it has led to escalating violence and discrimination within communities. Concern was expressed by others who feel that social media threatens to reduce the incentive for Indigenous people to physically engage with community, which is seen as vital in maintaining a working sense of community. Other findings relate to the politics of cultural knowledge, particularly around death and loss; experiences of racism and discord; confrontations within community; help-seeking and help-giving practices; and political engagement online.