The role of social media in our society is overwhelming.
Some truly consider it to be the great equalizer, a place where everyone can communicate with one another without revealing or being judged for their cultural identity.
One cultural group who have fought continuously to gain recognition from majority culture are those who are deaf. The logic of hearing culture assumes that textual communication, such as that which takes place online via social media, will end all communication difficulties between people who are deaf and those who are hearing.
That is simply not true.
People who are culturally deaf are often overlooked and rarely listened to. If majority culture were to listen, more would know that American Sign Language (ASL) has a different grammatical structure than spoken English and, therefore, can look very different when typed out.
Rarely do members of majority culture see content on social media that is truly representative of deaf culture.
What we do see of deaf culture are videos of patients hearing their first words after cochlear implant surgery or hearing people learning ASL.
In other words, we only see deaf people on our timelines in relation to hearing standards.
For some, deafness is their culture, not something to be cured.
In order for minorities to be fully recognized and understood, the majority needs to fully comprehend minorities’ cultures and ways of expressing themselves. This level of connection is one of the main purposes of social media.
If there is no understanding, then there is more opportunity for majority culture to misinterpret information or change the material to match their own beliefs and values.
As a student currently enrolled in an ASL course, it is a really exciting thought that more people will and are introducing themselves to ASL and deaf culture. Perhaps, this will become a new norm.
More hearing people learning about deaf culture would help to reduce communication barriers allowing the deaf community to be able to further reach the majority, express their messages, and advocate for their equality on all platforms, including social media.
In order to provide support, we need to pay better attention to spreading well-informed knowledge of the deaf community with hearing friends and family to encourage awareness and understanding.
Perhaps knowledge is the great equalizer. If more people were better able to understand the deaf community both culturally and communicatively, so many resolutions and accommodations could finally be successfully achieved and consistently maintained.
There is a large amount of work left to do. However, recognition of ignorance is the first step toward education, and with the increase in awareness, we are taking the correct step toward improvement.