Chances are, if you’ve been on the internet in the past month or so, you’ve seen some variation of that phrase somewhere. Maybe it’s your American friend, or a celebrity you follow, or perhaps even a corporation trying to do some marketing off of the election season. What’s more, I didn’t even have to specify in which country this election is taking place, you know by context and by habit that it’s in the USA. But I’m not American, and maybe you aren’t either, so why are we so exposed to American politics?
The internet is extremely American-centric. Unless you go out of your way to visit local news sites or follow people from the same areas as you, you’ll be exposed to a world that’s very focused around life in America and American culture. Most of the content you watch on Netflix is probably set in America, and the creators you follow on YouTube or Instagram are most likely American too. The front pages of Reddit and Twitter are usually quite centered on American culture and American news as well.
The result? We’re more exposed to American politics as a whole, sometimes even more so than the politics of our home country. But Americans don’t make up the majority of the world population, so why does the internet seem to belong to them? Well, for starters, English has become somewhat of a lingua franca for the internet. Although you can find sites in other languages, chances are if you interact on a major website the majority of people you interact with will speak, and expect you to speak English too, regardless of whether you come from an anglophone country. Pair that with the fact that many Americans nowadays have access to internet and you can expect the American experience to be somewhat dominant on the internet. To an extent, the Americentrism of the internet becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy if you use the internet in English, since most of its native speakers will most likely come from America.
Something else to take into account is the large amount of American corporations on the internet that may influence which culture dominates the internet. On top of the fact that the most popular social media in the west are American, the tech culture revolving around Silicon Valley probably affects the way we see the internet as well, and further pushes the notion of the internet ‘being American’. Since the first iteration of something similar to the internet– ARPANET was first created in America, it’s understandable why some people might argue that the internet is and always will be an American invention dominated by American corporations and American culture as a whole.
So, is the internet’s Americentrism a good thing, or is dumbing down the content that is shown to us? Well, that strongly depends on who you ask. Some people online have claimed to be happy that the internet will focus more often on the faults of American politics than on their home country, while others will argue that people growing up with the internet today might end up learning more about American politics than their own country’s. My main issue with Americentrism is that it can certainly be annoying to have to scroll down a timeline on social media to be faced with post after post dealing with politics that have nothing to do with you and that don’t affect you at all. Sure, keeping up with world events is important, but sometimes it gets pretty tiring scrolling through all the ‘go vote!’ type posts or posts lamenting the failures of the American healthcare system.