A Deeper Look into #BlackTwitter by Kylla Pate
I’ve lived in Chicago my entire life and it’s as diverse as it comes. However, despite our melting pot disposition, the many different cultural groups have still managed to carve out a niche for themselves in our society. Think of places like Greek town, Chinatown, Little Italy, and even Boys Town…all of these neighborhoods are home to a specific group of people that share core elements of their identity. That’s not to say Italian-Americans can’t live in Chinatown and vice versa, but going into these sectors, one would expect to find the majority to be identical. You can see the same thing happening online. The internet is a vast place, with more nooks and crannies than any city could possibly hope to have, so it’s almost a given that different cultural and ethnic groups would seek to carve out a place there. One such place where this is most prevalent is the social media platform, Twitter . According to the urban dictionary, Black Twitter is the portion of Twitter where most African-Americans and minorities are focused in; the social area of the black community. This is part of the major trend of how groups use technology to strengthen and extend social ties.
Unlike its counterpart, Facebook, Twitter takes away the need to be friends or be personally connected with everyone that’s on your timeline. You can follow celebrities, parody accounts, and if you search for a popular hashtag, you can follow those people that are talking about the same things that you are. This is how Black Twitter, or more commonly #BlackTwitter, came to be. In an update by BBC News, they quote, “#BlackTwitter is a cultural and social identity within Twitter [that’s] focused on issues of interest to Black communities around the world.” You can find tweets and discussions on anything from #BlackLivesMatter to #GrowingUpBlack; they all contribute to the over-arching theme of what it means to be an African-American in today’s society.
As a relatively new member to the Twitter community, what I immediately appreciate the most about #BlackTwitter is the fact that while it’s central to a key demographic of people, it’s public. This creates a type of hands on learning, in my opinion. Besides people just browsing through #BlackTwitter for laughs, it’s a way for people to come together virtually to discuss the different perspectives they have on any given topic. Most often, humor is used to shed light or bring attention to issues we might otherwise pay no attention to. Too often, members of the African-American community feel as if we don’t have a voice when it comes to these important conversations. As a Black woman, I’m happy that something like #BlackTwitter exists; it reminds me that I’m not the only one with something to say and it encourages me to speak up. Plenty of people have built their careers due to their overwhelming presence on social media and while some of them use their power to simply boost their egos, some people genuinely care about what they’re putting out into the world and what they can personally do to make it better. While I’m struggling with just under one hundred followers on Twitter, I like to think the people who do follow me will attest that I post things of substance, rather than just say things to say it.
In the #BlackTwitter community, that is one of the most important things; making sure what you’re talking about is relevant to the conversation. If someone has an opinion about politics, then someone will most likely ask them if they’ve registered to vote. If their answer is no, then almost immediately comes the history lesson about why it’s important for all people, not just African-Americans to vote in our country. That’s what you would call a learning experience.
“I don’t know any black reporter who, the first thing in the morning, doesn’t check Black Twitter,” Jamilah King, a senior writer at Mic, said at a February conference on the topic, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. During Black History Month, a lot of popular hashtags in the #BlackTwitter community centered around common experiences you may share with other African-Americans such as what it meant to be the only Black student in an all White classroom during the month of February, or having your name constantly mispronounced, or extended-family shenanigans that possibly occur during the holidays that we can all relate to. We’re all unique individuals and despite the melanin in our skin, we aren’t the same person, but these similar experiences remind us of where we used to be versus how far we’ve come as a people.
Many people dislike, and even hate the fact that something like #BlackTwitter exists. They think some of the jokes or topics are too controversial or racist against other races but that’s honestly the furthest thing from the truth. There’s something to be said about a group of complete strangers rallying together around #BlackLivesMatters and making plans to make a difference in our country and that scares people and makes them uncomfortable. They don’t like the idea that a group that once suffered at the hands of oppression is now being “woke.”. But I say embrace it. I’m a proud member of #BlackTwitter and I accept everything that comes with it; the inside jokes, the shared experiences, the thought-provoking discussions about race and equality, the daily reminders that we’re all here serving a greater purpose and I’ll take all of it.