Although accurate statistics are difficult to obtain, recent research suggests that Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people have always been early adopters of technology and use social media at rates higher than non-Indigenous Australians, with more than 60 per cent of Indigenous people in specifically ‘remote’ communities active social media users (Callinan 2014). Even in the most ‘remote’ areas of Australia, mobile technologies are becoming increasingly commonplace.
Too often in research, social media is isolated as some separate sphere of life. But it is clear there are now no neat divisions between online and offline worlds, or the ‘virtual’ and the ‘real’ (Carlson 2013). Social media is deeply entangled in the lives of many Indigenous people, offering them opportunities to connect across vast distances and diverse populations. It provides a platform to express one’s identity, connect with community, learn, play, seek love, organise political action, find lost friends and family, search for employment, seek help in times of need – and much more. Almost every aspect of everyday life has, in some way, been shaped, modified or enhanced by social media technologies.
Although there has been an increasing abundance of critical research on social media, little is known about Indigenous Australians’ use of social media. This is significant, as there are reasons not to generalise about social media use across different cultural groups. For example, many Indigenous Australians are situated within complex kinship systems, which work to shape the ways in which people may socialise with one another, and there are often protocols regarding the distribution and expression of cultural knowledge, the sharing of images, and the customs of dealing with loss (or Sorry Business) (Carlson & Frazer 2015). Indigenous Australians are still impacted by colonisation and the complex, violent and ongoing history of material, cultural and physical dispossession that entails. So, we ask the question: How do these and other factors intersect with and play out through social media?