Monday, November 30, 2009

My Black Planet

Pre-Script: I am white.

About a year ago, I subscribed to BlackPlanet, a social network website for African-Americans. I was doing a (perhaps patronizing) project on the site's discourse community (unnecessary academic term alert--see David Foster Wallace's defense of it here).

Now that you've read the Foster Wallace essay, it's four hours later than it was when you started mine, so let's update you.

I subscribed, la-de-da, project, low-de-doh.

So, as I was saying, I'd set out to study what kind of chat goes on at this Facebook-esque site that's the fourth most traveled of its kind. I was ready to pose, to chat with whomever about whatever.

Embarking on what could be considered an act of anthropological aggression (if not cyber-blackface), I had all of my typical guilt. Was I invading? Was I making exotic a simple social interaction? Had the internet allowed me to do this without me having to own up to the implications?

As with most things in my life, I worried about the BlackPlanet experiment about 6% too much. After I signed on--with the screenname Shameless82 (a description of me coupled with my birthyear)--I had a few casual chats about chili, my engagement, and certain R-rated activities apparently enjoyed by black and white alike.

I did not instigate these conversations, but I won't claim that I'm above them.

It was a learning experience to be enmeshed in a cyber- and cultural vernacular and, more importantly, to be self-conscious--even in a relatively anonymous forum--of my own race. But the project got done and I moved beyond it to the next compulsory social-experiment.

Or so I thought. As it happens, though, BlackPlanet is still a part of my life. As with other networking sites, it's nearly impossible to disengage from it, and so, after a few attempts, I gave up.

Forevermore, I will receive four alerts a day to both of my email addresses about the African-American Zeitgeist and the African-American dating scene. In the last week alone, I've seen alerts titled "Nine Reasons Why Beyonce Shouldn't Have Kids," "Did Chris Brown Call Jay-Z a 'Cornball' on Twitter," and the ever-flattering "You've Received a Friend Invite."

I currently have 72 emails from the site.

Getting them, glancing at them, deleting them has become a comforting ritual. And it's amazing to see how much interest I can attract; an inactive member of the community with a fake name, no profile, and no picture to speak of, I've received hundreds of friend-invitations.

It could be that lonely people, seeing nothing in someone, like what they see.

Oh, pardon, I've just received word: someone on BlackPlanet looked at me. I can't wait to see who.

I have to say, the BlackPlaneters are all so much nicer than those uppity folks on SeniorPeopleMeet. I got kicked out of that place in seconds. And those oldsters never invite me to be friends either, even when I invite them.


Zach said...

Dave, no internet roast beef sandwiches? Maybe you need to type louder.

Rob Strong said...

I think you missed a decimal point; you worry at least 60% too much about everything.

Dave said...

The discrepancy, Robert, is that you worry 54% too little.