The Internet & Jamaican Inner-City Girls

The Internet & Jamaican Inner-City Girls

Marcia Forbes PhD

A Love Affair

"The Internet mean a lot to me, without the Internet I can't survive. It's my life."

"The Internet is the part of the computer I love the most."

"The net is a new world for me that allows me to escape my problems and just talk and hang with friends."

"If I don't have it I would feel different, alone, left out."

"When you can't find information in book you can go to the computer and look up the information...."

What the Internet Means to Me

The preceding quotes come directly from inner-city females who attend what Jamaicans call 'non-traditional high schools'. These schools are largely seen as 'undesirable' and are mostly populated by poor, dark-skinned Jamaicans. Such is the stratified nature of education in this island.

The quotes are responses to my survey question, "What does the Internet mean to you?" In preparing to write a book tentatively titled, 'A Guide to Work Online', I'm painstakingly going through the responses. Comparisons will be made at several levels, including based on type of school attended, urban versus rural schools and respondents' gender.

Anyway, I've kicked off my in-depth analysis with the one hundred and eight inner-city respondents. Today I'll mostly talk about the 51 girls. Only one of them had never been online. Many of them complained about inadequate Internet access.

No Social Media Language

Interestingly, none of the girls from the inner city used the much-maligned social media language. None of the boys did either. In fact none of the over 500 respondents from the four countries who wrote about what the Internet means to them used social media language.

Yes, there were grammatical and spelling errors, like 'week' for 'weak' and subject verb disagreement like 'The Internet mean' instead of 'means', but no 'B4' for 'before' or other such forms of abbreviated words. Could it be that the outcry against bastardization of the English language by social media users is exaggerated?

'It Means a Lot To Me'

Almost 60 percent of the girls said the Net is important to them. An amazing 30 out of the 51 of them used the expression "it means a lot to me". I interpret this as limited ability to fully express themselves. Notwithstanding that, schoolwork was high on their net use activities.

Use for Schoolwork Tops the List!

Overall two thirds (67%) of them said they used the Internet for various school-related activities, even in the face of several mention of 'researches'. I was quite surprised to realize that among the five different categories created from coding the responses, using the Internet for school work topped the list. This compared to 45% who gave responses categorized as 'entertainment and or Cyberslacking'.

Predominantly Positive Vibes

The inner-city girls almost exclusively reported positive vibes toward the Internet. Only 2 of them noted anything negative. One of the 2, while noting how it satisfied her "entertainment needs", pointed out that "sometimes is just a bad cause mischief and affects my life in a bad way at times." The other remarked that, "some things are slack".

Gender Differences?

This in-progress analysis has spurred me to move quickly to examine the responses from the inner-city males. Knowing the extent to which males have disconnected from education in Jamaica I wonder how their responses will pan out. That will be the subject of my next article.

September 2012