Social media and xenophobia directly connect via the mass popularity of cell phones, texting, and the Internet. In fact, this technology has become both a conduit for and an enhancement of our culture’s basic xenophobic tendencies.
The users of social media may have low-level, non-virulent varieties of xenophobia, but the fear of difference is definitely at the root of the popularity behind this cultural phenomenon.
Just Like Me
People are almost frantic in their search for others just like them, the people who make them feel comfortable because they think the same, speak the same, look the same. Difference causes so much anxiety that people are willing to block out the rest of the world in order to keep their immediate world safe and same.
I watch the university students on campus. They may be sitting by someone very much different from themselves, someone who might suggest new and interesting ways of looking at assignments. That is, supposing the students took notice and struck up a conversation. But if they have their ear buds in or if they’re busy texting their friends, they have created a homogeneous cultural bubble around themselves.
North America claims allegiance to diversity of race, religion, language, and culture, as a basis for societal harmony but our actions prove the opposite. In fact, the very transparency of technology is what makes it so completely effective as a social blocker. It’s international in scope, and this lack of boundaries based on race, class, or gender is what make these virtual media such effective insulators.
Distance in the Age of Proximity
We may be living in the Age of Proximity, but technology has given us the perfect distancing tools. Users feel they have an irreproachable alibi for never encountering, much less getting to know, the neighbor who differs from us in any significant way.