Indigenous people in Australia are embracing social media and digital citizenship in a technologically mediated global world. The benefits for Indigenous peoples and communities on social media are many and diverse. Social media offers a site for establishing and navigating identity, building and maintaining strong connections to family and community, and seeking and offering mutual support.
Recent research in the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University, with the support of Facebook Australia, has investigated the positive affordances of social media as well as the impacts of negative and harmful content on Indigenous peoples.
The investigation sought the perspectives of Indigenous peoples from across Australia. It was primarily concerned with identifying how negative content is conceptualised, identified, and dealt with from Indigenous Australian perspectives.
A report from the findings of this research, published in November 2020, detailed the role social media plays in the lives of Indigenous individuals and communities. It also identified the ways that Indigenous peoples experience and navigate negative content.
The findings will assist policymakers and social media platforms to identify culturally specific forms of negative content and harmful speech to create a safer and more comfortable digital presence for Indigenous peoples.
The Report – ‘Indigenous peoples experiences of negative content on social media'
Participants were quick to identify the positive contributions social media makes in their lives. Importantly, 83% of respondents confirmed that they had positive experiences on social media on a daily basis. In fact, every respondent in the study noted that they had positive experiences at least weekly.
Participants suggested that accessing creative arts, Indigenous storytelling, and making contact with community members and services were among the most positive aspects. Another positive, often noted by participants, was the ability to engage in the political conversation. That is, to raise issues that are important to Indigenous people and that may not receive adequate attention in mainstream media.
Despite the positive opportunities, there exists a less comfortable side to social media which must be addressed. Bullying and harassment are having devastating effects on our young people and our communities. In 2019 Carlson and Frazer pointed to research that suggested “victims of cyberbullying are more likely to experience psychological ill-health, most seriously in the forms of depression, anxiety” and suicidal ideation.
Participants tended to be in agreeance that negative content was commonplace on social media. Sixty-three percent of respondents noted that they experienced negative content on social media on a daily basis and 97% suggested that they witnessed negative content at least weekly.