Many individuals and groups use social media as a mechanism for social activism. For example, 93% of the most successful charities in the United States have a Facebook page, 87% have a Twitter profile, and 65% have a blog (Barry, 2010). In contrast, the number of hate groups in the United States is on the rise (McNamee, Peterson, & Peña, 2010) and these groups use social media or websites as a way to recruit members (Adams & Roscigno, 2005). In both cases, people are using social media to connect with one another, sometimes standing up to others and other times perpetuating negative stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes. More generally, social media offers opportunities for intergroup contact; as has been found with research on face-to-face intergroup contact, research shows online contact can result in more positive attitudes toward outgroups (Schumann, van der Linden, & Klein, 2012; Tynes, Giang, & Thompson, 2008). However, the selective use of social media (e.g., searching for posts that fit with one’s opinion) might lead users to believe that their opinion is more widely shared than is actually the case (Watt & Larkin, 2010). This suggests that the effect of social media on stereotyping and prejudice is both positive and negative.
Adams, J., & Roscigno, V. J. (2005). White supremacists, oppositional culture and the World Wide Web, Social Forces, 84, 759-778. http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/sof.2006.0001
Barry, F. (2010). Three small cause campaigns that won big with social media. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/09/23/small-non-profits-social-media/
McNamee, L. G., Peterson, B. L., & Peña, J. (2010). A call to educate, participate, invoke and indict: Understanding the communication of online hate groups. Communication Monographs, 77, 257-280. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03637751003758227
Schumann, S., van der Linden, N., & Klein, O. (2012). Bridging the gap on Facebook: Assessing intergroup contact and its effects for intergroup relations. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 411-416. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/cyber.2011.0569
Tynes, B. M., Giang, M. T., & Thompson, G. N. (2008). Ethnic identity, intergroup contact, and outgroup orientation among diverse groups of adolescents on the Internet.CyberPsychology and Behavior, 4, 459-465. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/cpb.2007.0085
Watt, S. E., & Larkin, C. (2010). Prejudiced people perceive more community support for their views: The role of own, media, and peer attitudes in perceived consensus. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40, 710-731. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.2010.00594.x