I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free... so other people would be also free. Rosa Parks
"No one uses MySpace," says 17-year-old Halie Pacheco, a student at The Urban School [an elite school in San Francisco]. She likes Facebook. "It's safer and more high class," she explains.
Sixteen-year-old Nico Kurt lays out his view of the MySpace users this way: "It [MySpace] seems trashy to me. The only people who use it are trashy people."
"I have friends who are white. ... They are mostly on Facebook. That's why I use Facebook. My brown people are on MySpace."
Call me naive but was disturbed by the veiled racism and classicism in the first two comments. More important, I was disturbed by the warning that online communities are just as segregated as offline communities.
According to danah boyd, a researcher for Microsoft, "Young people — and for the most part adults as well — don't really interact online with strangers," she says. "They talk to people they already know. You have environments in which people are divided by race, divided by class, divided by lifestyle. When they go online they are going to interact in the same way."
Segregation anywhere is distressing. But it's particularly distressing online because it invalidates a central promise of the Connected Age.
New technologies finally enable us to build tribes across time and space. This promise can help us to break down the barriers that bind us and build new communities across culture, religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender.
What's your experience online? Does your online posse look just like your offline community? Or are you stretching yourself to reach for people who are not like you? And conversely, are you sharing your own unique experiences with lots of different people? Finally, if you are meeting people across lines of race, class and gender how do you do it?