Social media and technology have significantly transformed the Deaf community in so many different ways, both positive and negative. It is interesting to note the way communication and sharing information has changed for those in other smaller – but mighty – communities. There are an estimated 1 million Deaf people in the US and millions more worldwide. As we know, the digital era has changed many things for the better, but many say otherwise when it comes to issues with that technology. Ben Beyer, a member of the Deaf community, emphasized, “We obviously need the technology/social media to communicate with our Deaf community and hearing people. Videophone or FaceTime. It truly enables deaf people to communicate with each other just like hearing people.”
It is important to note the hearing community relied on telephones before the digital revolution came around, but how did the Deaf people in our society communicate during that time? Interestingly, Deaf people often used a device called a teletypewriter, known as a TTY, in which you could type messages back and forth to other people that also owned a TTY.
Visual technology has helped bridge the gaps between scattered Deaf communities across the country and all around the world. Deaf people are extremely visual, so being able to have a visual conversation over video chat is much more personal and real interaction. Beyer appreciates the technology for this reason. “It’s a way we can share our feelings and communicate with our hearing friends through social media whenever something is happening. What I love about social media and modern technology is there are more and more apps that are deaf-friendly, and [we are] able to see what’s going on with the world.”
Social media has also helped Deaf people connect with hearing people, opening up more avenues for business opportunities and other connections. Beyer said, “For me, I feel like social media and technology is one of the big and important parts of our life because we are able to share and post anything about [the] Deaf community or something that hearing people didn’t know, so we’re able to post and share about what we feel and hearing people will have a chance to understand.”
“Deaf awareness is spreading all over the world for sure, but it is still not enough because not all schools are educating the students about the Deaf community. Every school should provide ASL(American Sign Language) classes or something [so] that we get to educate hearing people more about us.”
Beyer wants hearing people to be more educated about the Deaf community because discrimination still exists. Beyer explained a situation in which his sister experienced this. “Someone literally said that Deaf people are ‘the monsters who need to get out of the world’ to my sister while she was working at Target. She did nothing to that customer, but she tried to use [a] whiteboard to communicate with the customer to see if she needed anything.” Despite these incidents, Beyer believes that the hearing community is more aware of Deaf people that exist in our world and society because of social media and technology.
However, social media does come with its own disadvantages, such as the lack of captions under videos, which continues to hold communication barriers between the Deaf and the hearing community. Beyer also agrees with the issue of videos with no captions, “Even [though] it [might be an] important topic to watch the video, we can’t understand [it] and lose our motivation to contact the blogger to create [captions as] they already knew there are deaf people out there but tend not to take some time and think about why they need to add [them] before posting the video.” As a Deaf person myself, I can relate to this as I go to bed at night, and I take off my Cochlear implant processors. I often scroll through social media, and when I come across a video that doesn’t include audio captions, it is frustrating. I cannot imagine how difficult it is for someone who is Deaf and has to deal with that issue 24/7. While many feel the issue doesn’t affect them, that isn’t exactly the case as it breaks down diversity and opportunities among all different groups of people in society. Beyer feels this way as well, and he said, “The flaws/barriers always will be out there for Deaf community, no matter what. At least, it’s much better than what we had during [the] 2000s and before.”
So what do I think about the innovation of technology that continuously connects us? Overall, from the Deaf perspective, I believe social media and modern technology have extremely positively impacted the Deaf community. The visual aspect of being able to communicate with other people is priceless, especially when thinking back to when Deaf people had to utilize writing as their only source of communication while hearing people could easily pick up the phone and have a conversation. Having the convenience of being able to video call others and visually chat using sign language creates a more genuine connection. Although many argue that being constantly connected with technology is a major issue, the benefits it offers and the barriers it has broken down are tremendous and outweigh the negatives.