Digital Divides

Pinterest Is 79 Percent White

On race and the Internet.

Is social media segregated? A new report by the BBC suggests it may be. “The Internet mirrors and magnifies everyday life. All of the divisions that exist in every day life, including those by race and class, actually re-emerge online,” Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd said.

When a new site pops up, the race of early adopters can determine the demographic of users for years. Pinterest is 70 percent female and 79 percent white, according to the BBC. By contrast, black and Latino users are overrepresented on Twitter versus the general population.

Ms. Boyd theorized that there was an exodus of users from Myspace to Facebook similar to white flight to the suburbs when the U.S. desegregated schools. Facebook, the vanilla of social media sites, was approaching the makeup of the U.S. population at the time of an analysis done in 2009. That was the year that white users stopped being overrepresented and black and Latino users stopped being underrepresented.

According to Quantcast, WordPress users are disproportionately Asian. Reddit users are a bit less African American than the rest of the web. Tumblr has a higher-than-average portion of Asian users and African American users. Foursquare.com is super Asian. Twenty-eight percent of online African-Americans use Twitter, and 13 percent do so every day, according to research from Pew.

Perhaps some of the more racially-niche sites will go mainstream and take hold among different communities. But even when sites are relatively integrated, users still largely interacting with other users who look like themselves. This trend is aggravated due to web 2.0’s emphasis on finding people you already know. Does that make you feel a little creepy?

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com