Black Twitter Please watch till 3:00.
Launched in 2006, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform that allows its users to share their ideas with 140 character limited short messages (tweets) and also get feedback and reactions on their posts with retweets, likes or comments from other users. Therefore it is a social media platform which enables people to get together, communicate with each other publicly and make their voices become louder and be heard by a larger community. Black Americans are a growing group of Twitter users who use the application disproportionately to the size of their population in the U.S.
“According to a 2010 Edison Research and Arbitron study, although Black Americans make up only 12 to 13 percent of the U.S. population, they comprised 24 percent of the seventeen million Twitter users in the United States (Saint 2010)” (Florini). Moreover, they are more active than white Americans who consist of only 19 percent of Twitter users compared with 26 percent of Black Americans.
In her essay “Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: Communication and Cultural Performance on ‘Black Twitter,’” Florini states that “I should be clear that Black Twitter does not exist in any unified or monolithic sense. Just as there is no “Black America” or single “Black culture,” there is no “Black Twitter.” What does exist are millions of Black users on Twitter networking, connecting, and engaging with others who have similar concerns, experiences, tastes, and cultural practices. Black people are not a monolith.”
This illustration of the brown Twitter bird by Alex Even Meyer shows the fact that a very diverse group of Black people who have different socioeconomic or cultural background see Twitter as a platform of solidarity. By using ‘Blacktags’ such as #onlyintheghetto, #if santawasblack or #blacknerds and showing various aspects of their community with a comedic effect, this diverse population in the U.S society is trying to efface the ingrained stereotypes surrounding black people in society. Furthermore, as mentioned in the video, hashtags such as #ferguson and #oscarssowhite show their fight against injustices against their community and make them see Twitter as a platform that gathers like-minded people together and so gives them a powerful voice.
There are certain patterns of expressions that people use on ‘Black Twitter’ which come from the way Black people have interacted with each other in their communities over the years. “Generations of Black Americans have used signifyin’ as a space for the expression of Black cultural knowledge, as a vehicle for social critique, and as a means of creating group solidarity” (Florini,3). Signifyin’ can be defined as a form of Black American oral tradition which includes “marking, woofing, playing the dozens, sounds, loud talking.” The video where Black Twitter is described as analogous to barber shops shows us why signifyin’ is an essential part of Black Twitter. For black people, signifyin’ was a collaborative practice that fostered group solidarity within their community. It was a fundamental concept of Black people’s daily conversations among each other. Therefore, Twitter has now become the place for cultural discussion, and because signifyin’ was a part of that culture, it now has become an essential element of communications on ‘Black Twitter.’ Moreover, dissing also takes an important part on Black Twitter. It prioritizes verbal dexterity, wit, and wordplay, yet unlike its negative meaning or usage dissing is a way of joking around among Black community instead of a way of insulting that would generate animosity. Therefore, signifyin’ and dissing are commonly used on posts or on ‘Blacktags’ whose content connotes black vernacular expressions and slangs in the form of humor and social commentary.
For example, in the video ‘If Black Twitter Went On A Date With You,’ we can see how slangs, signifyin’ and dissing were used on posts about a situation which many people of the black community would find relatable and give reactions similarly. It is a situation that can be discussed by black people in their daily conversation. Therefore, by using many vernacular expressions unique to their group, Black people see twitter as a platform where they can reflect the opinions of their community in political, social, cultural and everyday topics and so can make their voices be heard.
With that, I leave you with a few question to think about. As always, I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and analysis on this topic! Thanks for reading!
1- Why do you think Black Americans need a social platform through which they can find solidarity?
2- Why do you think Black Twitter is more commonly known and influential than other groups of Twitter users who are members of other ethnic groups in the U.S? Can it be because Black Americans think they are confronted with more injustice in society?
3- Do you think Black Twitter has made the black community more powerful and active in today’s society?
Sarah Florini, “Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: Communication and Cultural Performance on ‘Black Twitter’