Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in February 2004. It currently serves approximately 1 billion users. Twitter, founded by Jack Dorsey in 2006, provides for 500 million users. Aside from the logistics, the two networks’ purpose is to provide the opportunity for people from all nations to meet and converse with one another.
However, some Weber State University students said they are unsure if the social networks are in fact being used as a tool for breaking misconceptions of different cultures.
“We frequently get a stereotype of a country,” said Kathleen Herndon, the WSU English Department chair and professor.
Herndon, a former abroad school teacher, said Iran is a beautiful country, and “there’s nothing better than Persian food.”
Yet the snow-capped mountains were not what came to mind when WSU students were asked about their perceptions of the Middle East.
Many WSU students agreed that stereotypes exist internationally. Antero Sanchez, an international WSU freshman, said Peruvians, like himself, are known as fast “scammers.”
Cynthia Alonso, an international student from Mexico, said Hispanics are often stereotyped as cartels.
“(People) act like we’re from a different planet,” Alonso said. “We’re all from the same planet; (we just) come from different countries.”
Courtney Donehoo, a traditional student at WSU, said much of it has to do with how a person is raised.
“Other countries have a perception that if you’re white, you have better privileges,” she said.
Sanchez added that stereotype issues are also prominent in personal relationships. Just because a man and woman conversing with one another resemble the same ethnicity does not indicate they are in a relationship.
Herndon said everyone comes with a different story to share. Some WSU students offered suggestions for possibly breaking the barriers apparent in today’s world.
“Education is key,” Sanchez said, adding that people must educate themselves to keep war from defining the public’s perception of the Middle East. He also said education needs to start young.
“Start (with) the young ones,” Sanchez said. “Leave your seed, and hopefully, it will start growing straight.”
Other student suggestions were offering oneself as a friend or entertaining a conversation with another individual who might appear different.
“You could make friends with people that you never expected,” Donehoo said.
Getting to know someone rather than judging an individual makes the difference, Alonso said. She said she recently stepped out of her comfort zone to ask a woman why she wears a headdress, and was pleasantly surprised to learn a customary religious belief was the reason.
“Take a minute and . . . look at each other in a different light,” Alonso said. “You might like what you found out.”
The International Student and Scholar Center, located on the Ogden campus in Room 143 of the Student Services Center, is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.