Racial Divide Emerges on Social Media Sites

by Liane Membis

Social MediaIt’s well-known that African-Americans are among the top users of Twitter, however a recent survey released by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project makes a stark depiction of how divided several social media platforms are by race.

The survey showed that African-Americans are more heavily congregated on Twitter and Instagram than any other ethnic group. After interviewing 1800 respondents by phone between November 4 and December 19, researchers found that only 14% of whites use Twitter versus the 26% of African-Americans that do. Additionally, 23 % of African-Americans are Instagram users, more than the 18% of Hispanics and 11% of whites. On the flip side, whites, specifically women, outnumber other ethnic groups when it comes to social media sites like Pinterest and Tumblr.

Wayne Sutton, a social-media consultant, told Business Insider that one of the main reason why African-Americans utilize Twitter and Instagram over any other service is because they create more accessibility to broadcast their thoughts.

“With the history of our culture, we now have an equal channel like anyone else,” Sutton said. He also says that Twitter enables “a level playing field in getting (black Americans’) voices heard.”

Another reason for Blacks’ gravitation towards social networking has to do with increased access through consumerism. According to a 2012 Nielsen study, Blacks and Hispanics are leading the way in the purchase of smartphones and tablets – with 54.4% of African-Americans and 57.3% of Hispanics owning smartphones versus 44.7% of whites.

“African-Americans and Hispanics are leading the way in terms of buying smartphones or tablets,” Sutton says. He pointed to a March 2012 Nielsen study that says 54.4% of blacks and 57.3% of Hispanics own a smartphone vs. 44.7% of whites.

  • Skye

    I know they were trying to throw light shade. Anyway, yes it does gives us a platform and happy to see and encourage more black entrepreneurship with the web.

  • Mademoiselle

    I’m not enough of a techie to start one of these, but it would be nice if at least one of these social media hits were the brain child of black people (that didn’t devolve into an online hookup tool). Pintrest & Tumblr numbers will flip just like FB & Twitter did soon enough. White flight keeps leading to bigger and better innovations as they try to escape the black public that keeps following their lead.

  • Whiteprivilegeterminated

    What a surprise, blacks leading the way in consumerism . . . . of material goods and instant gratification services.

    I’m not in the least surprised that blacks are largest users of Twitter, just as we are the largest watchers of television. Guees it’s no coincidence that we chat the most crap when we watch the most crap.

    Wonder where blacks would place in a breakdown of buyers of Kindles?

  • Apple

    I thought everyone was the leading user in tablets and smart phones hence why people camp out of apple every time for them. Anyways I use all these sites for my small business

  • YeahRight2011

    I have neither. Just got Facebook myself.

  • Apple

    A kindle is a tablet troll

  • Mademoiselle

    A Kindle is an e-reader, which is a separate category from tablets because of their very limited functionality.

  • Camryn

    actually amazon refers to the kindle fire as a “tablet”


    Kindle Fire Tablet

    Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ 4G LTE Wireless Tablet

    Kindle Fire Tablet

    Which have made their e-readers pretty much obsolete…

  • Mademoiselle

    Touché. I wasn’t thinking about the Fire, I was thinking about the 1-3G versions since that’s what I have.

    (side note: I think it’s super cool that when I got the e-mail notification of your post, the picture was in the message & I didn’t even have to click your link)

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    It is interesting that black people buy more smartphones and tablets, when as a whole we have less money. I guess white people are out hiking and stuff ;)

  • The Moon in the Sky

    It’s no secret that Black people use Twitter more than anyone else. The trending topics on Twitter are an indication of that.

  • Whiteprivilegeterminated


    Pardon me but you come off a lil thou doth protest too much. You seem to be taking things mighty personally.

    Oh i get it . . . you’re an Apple fan right and a twitter sitter?

    Consumer junky in da house!

    Furthermore and FYI, to most normal people who are not rampaging barbarians who camp all night outside big stores to be first in line to squander their last minimum wage pennies on the latest gizmo trash . . . . the term kindle has almost become a generic term for an electronic e-reader, just as “hoover” is a brand name that became a generic term for vacuum cleaner.

    Pop quiz since you’re all high tech and stuff

    What do they call those things with lots sheets of paper with squiggly symbols printed on them, bound together in a hard or paper back sleeve?

    here’s a clue . . . . bet you’ve never read a whole one.

    and troll your own self moron.

  • jcross

    Yes, Kindles are tablets, but I think the point that Whiteprivilegeterminated was trying to make is that Black people are not the highest consumers of Kindles because they’re specifically designed for READING.

  • Kay

    Meh. I have a twitter account and I used it once. But I love Pinterest and tumblr. In fact, I have several boards that I frequently pin. I’m more into blogs and online mags like Clutch, but I have never really gotten into twitter. As far as instagram goes, I checked it out once, but I’m not into it either. *shrugs*

  • http://www.urbanexpressive.com J. Nicole

    I only embraced social media less than a year ago; and thats only because I launched my blog (shameless plug). I use Facebook and Twitter to gain and keep readers. I used Instagram but found it didn’t contribute to gaining an audiance, and looking at the chart for the average user, I see why. Thats usually the “OMG, my shoes match my cupcake, let me take a pic of both & post it”. Nothing wrong with them, but not my kind of crowd.

    I actually use Pinterest as well, and of course if you visit my blog (shameless plug, pt. 2) you can find every social media platform I’m on… Lol….

  • Come On

    Agreed. And people here will start talking about how poor black people are, and how we can’t do it on our own because we’re poor. Black people spend a lot of money on tiny little things like shoes, jewelry, phones, tablets instead of saving and buying bigger things like homes and land. I’m over the “we don’t have any resources” talk. Black women spend loads of money on hair stuff alone. I read somewhere that if African Americans had their own country, they would be like one of the top 20 wealthiest. It is why I reject the idea that we just can’t do it because we’re poor. Take a look at what people talk about on Twitter, and you might see why we can’t do it. Too many of us are too busy watching TV. Just look at black twitter. Fake relationship experts. #teamlightskin trending. Talking about Gabby Douglas’s hair.

    “African-Americans and Hispanics are leading the way in terms of buying smartphones or tablets.”

    I have young cousins that got tablets for X-mas at an age when I was still getting bikes and dolls. They don’t even know how to work the things. Parents buy young pre-K kids Gameboys with educational games instead of teaching themselves, and these are capable people. I’m never surprised by test scores. I’m not surprised to learn of people renting or living in public housing but wearing name brand clothes. Misplaced priorities and short term thinking.

  • stef

    this is so full of bull

    fact more white people are on twitter than black people , why cause the white population is 4X bigger than the black population. we just make up a higher % due to size of pop

    same goes for instagram, facebook would never have spent a billion on it, if they taught black people who be their #1 source of followers

    we have to learn to read between the lines on stories or surveys like these

  • Come On

    You don’t compare groups of unequal sizes with just numbers. You use percentages. So the fact that the black percentage is higher says more than the fact that there are more white people on twitter. Of course there are more white people on Twitter. There are probably more white people that listen to Beyonce’s music too simply because they outnumber us, but I bet the percentage of black people who listen to Beyonce’s music is higher.

  • stef

    but then is an accurate to say that a racial divide exist on social media sites ? NO

  • Come On

    Let’s say I have a group of 100 white people and 10 black people. Let’s pretend 100% of black people are on Twitter. If only a small 10% of white people are on twitter, these two groups are the same size 10 black people and ten white 10 people. Yet the percentages show that obviously Twitter is very popular among black people. ALL of them use the site. Only 10% of whites do whereas the majority of white people 90% do not. These percentages convey more meaning than simply saying an equal number of white and black people use twitter and these percentages YES they do show a racial divide. If there were no racial divide then the twitter makeup would be similar to the racial makeup to the US or maybe the racial makeup of US web users.

  • Nakia

    These statistics point to a percentage of these populations, not a percentage of the total population, nor of total users…so, your assessment in inaccurate. Blacks are not “leading the way” in these services, as our total population in the US is much smaller than those to which we are being compared. 26% of African Americans is still far fewer than 14% of whites. Again, 54.4% of blacks is far fewer than 44.7% of whites in terms of raw number for smart phone and tablet consumption…and in 2013, I would also argue against calling these “material goods” in the sense that you are using it.

  • AyGurlAyGurl

    devolve? i need to incorporate that into my vocab

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  • http://www.rishona.net Shona

    I think they are missing a key influence factor; I believe (sorry, I don’t have the data/link to back it up, but I think I read it somewhere….) that African-Americans are more likely to use the web via mobile devices than other groups. The apps for Twitter and Instagram are awesome. Facebook…not so much. I personally like the Pinterest app; but I prefer how Pinterest looks on the computer.

    To get a clearer picture of what’s going on, it would help to know if this use is via mobile or desktop connections.

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