Essay One

Submitted By sophiafillmore14
Words: 1219
Pages: 5

How Class Antagonisms Influence Life Online In S. Craig Watkins’ essay, “From The Young and the Digital,” he examines how class variances influence social-networking usage according to modern day times. With technology usage at an all-time high, social media usage is sparking in popularity making communication become more virtual than it has ever been. Many predicted that with this shift from real face time to virtual face time, existing social inequalities would dissipate. However, this is not the case. Watkins, a professor of radio, television, and film, suggests that a divide exists between both race and class on social networking sites that parallels real world divides in social inequalities.
The topic of social class is infrequently brought up. Although public conversations about class separations are rare, Americans seldom think in terms of class. The fact of the matter is that social class and financial standing are unconsciously defined by materialistic items and many facets of daily life. This draws a parallel to virtual life. The same situation happens online which can be recognized in Watkins research. He found that Latino students were more likely to use Myspace while White college students were more likely to use Facebook. Other research also suggests that students whose parents achieved a high level of education are less likely to use Myspace. Additionally, students are far more likely to use Myspace over Facebook if their parents attained less than a high school degree. Since high levels of education are often associated with higher levels of employment and income and, in turn, are directly correlated with social class, lower class is linked to Myspace.
Watkins reasoned that social-networking site preference relates to preservation of social class and privilege. The way college students distinguish between social classes simply imitates the way they distinguish social-networking sites. It enables middle-class cultures to not only reinforce their position of privilege and taste, but also their social status, all through the use of specific social-networking sites. Watkins also suggests that the shift from Myspace to
Facebook it is directly correlated to a search for homogeneous people. It is natural human nature to associate with like-minded people. This has become ordinary in geographic sorting where the vast majority of people choose to live with similar people who do not challenge their ethnic or social prospects. Since social divisions of race, lifestyle, and ideology are already a commonplace, Watkins suggests that social-network sites are not to blame for causing these divisions. He states:
The vast majority of young people we meet go online to have fun by sharing their lives and communicating with their peers. And yet, the choices they make regarding who they interact with online are not immune to the social forces that are shaping their off-line lives. Like the Big Sort, the online sorting among young Facebook Users is shaped by a general suspicion of difference, a split along lifestyle, and, finally, the wish to reside in communities with like-minded people (Watkins 513).
Online social divides merely reflect the commonalities of everyday “off-line” life. It is clearly evident that class biases and racial perceptions developed in life off the internet sidle into life online, sometimes even unintentionally and blindly. Building ethos, Watkins quotes a statement from other experts: “Eastwick and Gardner write, ‘the virtual world may not prove to be a perfect utopian gateway from the real world.’” (Watkins 514).
Throughout his essay, it is evident that Watkins has a purpose to examine the social divides of the internet and educate his audience about this topic. His audience includes social media users, people with an interest in the way that social media has worked its way into American culture, or middle-aged intellectuals reading for educational reasons.
Watkins carefully presents his essay