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You are invited to participate in a research study which will ask you about your social-network use and preferences, and the cultural characteristics you perceive in social media. My name is Mari D. González, and I am a student in the Masters in Intercultural Relations Program at the University of the Pacific, School of International Studies. You were selected as a possible participant in this study because of your interest in social-network sites.
This study will compare second-generation Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S or native-born (born in the U.S.) with at least one foreign-born parent (parent born in Latin America: Mexico, Central America and South America) vs. dominant culture (people who predominately identify as U.S.-white and do not identify with a particular U.S. ethnic minority).
You will receive a Peet’s Coffee & Tea gift card of $5.00 as a thank you for your participation. Social-network users who identify with either cultural group are encouraged to participate.
If interested, please go to Social Media Study include your email at the end of survey to contact you and set up a 45 min. phone interview. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By Mari D. González
This is the second part of my interview with Lance Rios, founder and administrator of Being Latino, “a communication platform designed to educate, entertain and connect all peoples across the global Latino spectrum.” It is the largest Latino/Hispanic page on Facebook with 41,460 “People Like This” to date -an additional 9,884 followers since the date of my first post on May 27, 2010.
For Lance, Facebook provides an already established and flexible platform on which participants can “communicate back and forth in whatever language they want, Spanish or English.” Conveniently, there are plenty of Latino/Hispanic social-network users. According to him, there is no need to create any specific social-network website for them.
Mainstream vs. Latino
I wanted to know if there were any differences between “mainstream” and Latino Facebook users. Mainstream users are considered the general market or non-ethnic segment in marketing. In other words, mainstream users are by and large in-tune with the popular U.S. American culture. Lance contends that Spanish-language phrases that are immediately recognized by Latinos/Hispanics such as, “Que pasa” and “Mi gente” are essential when communicating with Latinos on social-network sites and that using “English-language [only] is limiting.” Thus, Spanish as a language becomes a salient cultural indicator for Latinos even when only a few words are being used.
Singh, Baack, Kundu and Hurtado (2008) argue, “[Spanish language] tends to be the most visible manifestation of U.S. Hispanic identity.” According to my my academic research on digital media, bilingual, second-generation Latinos/Hispanics prefer English websites that include phrases and words in Spanish because those speak to their cultural identity. Lance agrees, “You need to speak their language.” Language choices represent how young Latinos see themselves. Their language is as hybrid as their cultural identity.
Social Media Trends
When asked about Latino trends in social media, Lance first asserts that Latinos are a strong market, “Latinos are a young audience and the fastest growing.” He explains that Latinos have a great interest in connecting with other Latinos wherever they may be. For instance, “they want to know what is going on with Latinos in East L.A.,” which unlike with any other demographic it is consistent with Latinos/Hispanics. For Lance, “connecting among Latinos within the Latino community is to identify and to [identify is to] capitalize.”
Lance affirms that Latinos are less afraid of saying what they think and feel, “they are more expressive in social media and more willing to put it out there” adding that in Latin America people are encouraged to carry over [their culture] by expressing it.” According to him, Latinos in the U.S. are not different. He states, “they are expressive and passionate” about their culture.
I was very curious to know which topics get the most responses and keeps Latino/Hispanic fans engaged. Lance notes that it is difficult to capture the attention of social media users with topics that need more consideration. He advises keeping things straightforward and “not to use too much thought, simple [uncomplicated] stuff generates the most responses.” As for my appraisal, his topics are hardly ever simple; his spin is though. For instance, Lance’s October 2, post with a link to the L.A. Times article, “CNN’s Rick Sanchez fired after statement about Jews in TV” reads on top, “CNN fires news anchor, Rick Sanchez, Thoughts?” On October 2, 2010, this post generated 103 comments within a day of posting.
Edited by Connie Cobb
An Interview with Lance Rios
By Mari D. González
I became fascinated by Lance’s ability to attract a wealth of followers –“31,576 People Like This” as of today, to keep them engaged, and to maintain consistent and personalized contact with them. All of his posts are culturally relevant and promote individual opinions and collective discussion. Thirteen percent or 18 out of my 138 Facebook friends joined Being Latino after I suggested it.
How Does He Manage It?
Lance is a young English-speaking and bicultural blogger and social media addict –as he describes himself. He is of Puerto Rican descent and both his Latino cultural background and American values are alive and communicated throughout his posts.
He resonates with acculturated English-speaking Latinos across the board –Mexican, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Central American and South American. His posts range from informational and serious activism to entertaining on American popular culture, national news from Latin America, politics, statistics, biographies and other socio-cultural topics.
When I asked him about the role of Being Latino, he humbly replied, “It is something I created [which has] attracted a lot of people via word of mouth and it is bigger than I anticipated.”
Being Latino vs. Lance Rios
Lance recognizes that it is more effective to tone down individual views and reserve those for his personal page, “I’m more balanced, neutral, and less biased on Being Latino. I wanted to separate [myself from it]. It is not about me.”
Concurrently, he wants people to know that although Being Latino is an “open platform” he is behind the page by personally approaching people “who had their own agenda.”
Cultural Relevance – What Makes Being Latino, Latino
Being Latino has filled a huge gap in mass media communications with a conventional social media platform. There isn’t media that communicates to bicultural and acculturated Latinos. “Most media outlets use Spanish language” which doesn’t echo with American-born Latinos. Being Latino caters to “second- and third-generation Latinos” not only in the U.S. but also in Europe, South Africa and Latin America.
American-born Latinos have been raised in an English-speaking world surrounded by American media which unfortunately neither represents nor includes them. They are the majority, as compared to foreign-born, and prefer speaking English; yet, they also choose to unassimilate by continually sharing and communicating certain cultural values on- and off-line.
Lance recognizes that “[his] audience is more comfortable with Spanglish and English,” which speaks of their upbringing. Culturally relevant elements are communicated in the language that is more fitting. Spanglish is used for what cannot be translated without losing connotation, “I never spoke [Spanish] growing up; everything was in English, [except] certain words with meanings that cannot be transferred, [such as] words used in normal conversations [and] those words are identifiers and connectors.”
I do not consider myself another social media addict, however I am becoming addicted to Being Latino.
[To be continued].