After doing the Representation activity, I decided to focus my writing for this week on the same subject while my thoughts and feelings are fresh. I found myself eager to read through all the articles so I could try to understand why the Internet seems to be so lacking in minorities and women. Of them, I am the most interested in Why I’m Masquerading As A White Bearded Hipster Guy On Twitter (Despite Being a Black Woman). I have very conflicting feelings on the whole idea. On the one hand, I can see why she decided to stick with that to avoid abuse. I have had many sexist, racist, and ugly words thrown at me on Internet discussions. In spite of my thick skin, it has gotten to me sometimes. But I hate to think of contributing to erasing diversity on the Internet in this way. Its especially a shame because in certain kinds of discussions end up being dominated by men because of social norms, aggression, and stereotypes dictating what men and women should be interested in and how they should behave; the Internet should be the great equalizer that allows for a more balanced discussion.
I felt similarly conflicted about the idea of purposefully not retweeting men for a year to allow women’s voices to be heard. I like to think everything should be based on merit alone. Yet the observations in this piece suggest that women did have many worthy things to say once she actually considered amplifying female voices.
Although neither of these approaches are right for me, I am inspired to try to be mindful about how I can use the Internet to amplify diversity when it comes to sex and race. I have always been the type to address diversity of views by bringing up uncommon viewpoints or experiences online, so this seems like a logical extension of what I already do, inspired by the knowledge of how far the Internet has to go toward diversity. I am going to try three simple changes:
1 Use emojis of darker skin tones and female whenever possible, which makes sense since it reflects what I look like in real life.
2 Try to follow one woman or tweet a female-dominated topic for every man I follow or retweet on Twitter
Feel free to keep me accountable to making these changes. Because ultimately, I feel the answer to how algorithms amplify bias and stereotypes is that we do not make an effort to make conscious change.