BLOG POST (MODULE 11): HIRAM GONZALEZ, Black Twitter and its Unifying Significance

Over the years, Black Twitter has received more attention because of the amount of Twitter users that have participated in this hashtag #blacktwitter, causing it to garner more attention in U.S. audiences. In Andre Brock’s essay, “From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation” he says that “Black Twitter refers to the fact that African Americans have, since Twitter’s launch participated in Twitter to a degree that seemed to take internet analysts by surprise.” In other words, Black Twitter is a virtual community that focuses on the issues and interests of the Black community, primarily in the United States. This can range from political issues, to comedic current events going on in the African American community.

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In the picture with all the hashtags you can see how most of them are referring to socio-political events happening within the African American community. This picture of the hashtags conceptualizes what Sarah Florini tells us in her essay, “Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: communication and cultural performance on Black Twitter”. She tells us is that, “What does exist are millions of African American users on Twitter, networking, connecting, and engaging with other who have similar concerns, experiences, tastes, and cultural practices”. This ties into the picture of the hashtags because we can see very famous hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #icantbreathe become viral through the connecting and engaging that Florini talks about. These have been some of the most trending hashtags on not just the Black Twitter community but the overall Twitter community because of the amount of retweets and posts that it has received. 

In the second picture there is a meme regarding the current topics about R.Kelly running a sex cult and Usher contracting herpes. This can be further explicated through Sanjay Sharma’s: “Black Twitter?: Racial hashtags, Networks, and Contagion”. He tells us that “Black twitter works through users retweeting and replying to tweets within specific hashtags, causing those hashtags to trend, and making them into memes.” The second picture depicts a girl being taped on the shoulder by both R. Kelly and Usher as she has to decide if she wants to join a sex cult or receive herpes. These two current situations between R. Kelly and Usher should be taken very seriously however Black Twitter has turned them into more of a joke. In addition, O.J. Simpson was given a release date from prison the same week these two incidents were occurring and Black Twitter did not hold back on generating all sorts of creative memes. 

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This image can be seen as a diss to O.J. Simpson, R. Kelly, and Usher. But in this context, a diss is more along the lines of what Florini calls, “shared experiences of humor and critique”. 

Finally in the last picture, there are brown Twitter birds that show how ‘Black people use Twitter.’ This picture went viral because of the different depictions that were portrayed as if these were the only categories that Black Twitter users fall under. This example can relate to Jeff Yang’s piece, “Stephen Colbert: Racism and the weaponized hashtag”. It relates to it because the picture was seen as highly offensive by the Black Twitter community and different weaponized hashtags were “used to rally support around a political cause.” In all cases, Black Twitter has become a space for primarily Black Twitter users to engage in different cultural conversations as a way to garner support or move on with ideas and concepts that are important. By doing so, this community has become one that is very unique in its origin and continuum.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you use social media as a way to connect with different audiences that share similar views to yourself?
  2. Can you give an example of a time you saw a hashtag go viral? How was this seen in your social media community? Did the hashtag start something, or did it propagate a situation?
  3. What are the pros and cons of Black Twitter? If they had to pick, what side would Brock, Florini, and Yang be on?

Relevant Readings:

  1. Andre Brock, From the Blackhand side: Twitter as a cultural conversation
  2. Sarah Florini, Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: communication and cultural performance on Black Twitter
  3. Sanjay Sharma, Black Twitter?: Racial hashtags, Networks, and Contagion
  4. Jeff Yang, Stephen Colbert: Racism and the weaponized hashtag

 

Thoughts and comments welcome below!

 

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11 thoughts on “BLOG POST (MODULE 11): HIRAM GONZALEZ, Black Twitter and its Unifying Significance”

  1. Hi Hiram! I really enjoyed reading your blog post on Black Twitter and its capability of fostering community though hashtags. Although Black tags are originally aimed to connect these people of color together on an online media platform, more Twitter users, many of whom do not identify as Black, have begun participating in tags associated with Black content. Although I have a twitter myself, I rarely ever engross myself in tweeting hashtags or statements that are in reference to black culture or stereotypes. Rather, I choose to remain as an observer, habitually viewing tweets but not necessarily engaging in them. There have been numerous hashtags championing black culture going viral, such as #onlyintheghetto, #onlyblackkidsunderstand, and #ifsantawasblack. The majority of these Black tags serves as parodies of Black lives and is even used in a non-serious, comical, parody-like manner. These hashtags were mainly for laugh inducing, entertaining purposes and not necessarily for propogating situations. However, in the BBC article, “#BBCtrending: Native Americans reject ‘super drunk’ label”, a specific incident that triggered the hashtag actually went viral and managed to somewhat bring this issue to light. Hebblethwaite discusses the outrage that germinated from the ignorant t-shirts that had the statement “Sioux per drunk” fashioned by students at a University of North Dakota party. The images of the partiers donning those shirts spread throughout Twitter and Facebook, and ultimately sparked the hashtag #Siouxperdrunk that was utilized to condemn the appropriation and disprespect towards Native Americans. Although this minority group makes up approximately 2% of the U.S. population, it is via hashtag activism that makes it so efficient for even a small population of the U.S. to receive acknowledgement of this appropriation. Through this social media strategy, so many individuals, such as myself, are now informed of this incident and are now more wary of cultural appropriation and the offensiveness that the University of North Dakota students perpetuated. Although hashtag activism is an effective method of spreading messages to the masses, I feel that it is only powerful to an extent, simply because it seemingly aids in the promotion or support of a specific cause, but does not necessarily create tangible results.

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  2. Hi! I really liked all your examples in this blog post since they are engaging and gets to the point. I mainly use Instagram as a way to connect with different audiences that share similar interests and views as me. I don’t usually post on my Instagram to raise awareness and show my opinions but rather use it to connect with other people who have similar interested as me. I usually post a lot of food pictures and love to start conversations with other users on food. I like to get inspiration and recommendations with users and also share my love for food with others as well. While food is my personal example, I think that social media and hashtags are an effective method to connect with others. It is an easy and simple way to find others and instantly connect. Even though I am not an avid user of twitter, I remember when the #blacklivesmatter hashtag went viral. I wasn’t aware of the news and the events happening but I remember seeing the hashtags trending on facebook and twitter and immediately read about the issues. Through the hashtags and fast propagation on the trending pages, I was able to learn and be aware of the issues and would not have seen aware if it were not for social media.

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  3. I mostly use social media for comedic purposes, and to keep up-to-date on topics that are interesting to me. Because I rarely use Twitter, I don’t take notice of very many trending hashtags. I mostly only see hashtags that are big enough to start showing up on Facebook, like the #NotMyPresident hashtag after the 2016 election. The only hashtag I can recall being used frequently in a community that I follow closely was in the community for SMITE, a video game (the hashtag was #NotMyBacchus, which was used comically after the game developers gave the character Bacchus a poorly received visual update).
    As far as pros and cons of Black Twitter, I think the pros outweigh any cons. Black Twitter is primarily a comedic, satirical community, and when it is not, it is an activist community. Both comedic and activist communities are critical parts of any social medium as a whole. Being that Black Twitter is such a large sector of Twitter, I think the contributions it makes to the Twitter community are extremely beneficial. The only con I can think of is that it may seem to some to represent black people as a monolithic culture, but I think the fact that it is solely a digital experience separates it sufficiently from attitudes about real people and “real life” culture.

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  4. Hi Hiram!

    Thank you for the interesting post and I really enjoyed reading the examples you listed. For me personally, I have only started to used Social Media for one year and only limited myself to Instagram and Facebook. I first didn’t even know the significance of hashtags, I thought it was simply a way for people who were interested in “food” find your picture with the hashtag of “food”. However, browsing all the posts that share the tag of “BlackLifeMatters”, I suddenly came to understand how powerful a hashtag can be. It connects people in a way that is faster than any other method and goes beyond the limit of physical distance and living backgrounds. Everyone who has access to internet and willing to stand out for the community can put on a hashtag and cause some impact. And I think it is a good way for people like me who spend most time observing as audiences gain insights on what is happening around us and who are the participants under spotlights.

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  5. Hello Hiram! First off, I’d just like to say that I really enjoyed reading your blog post and thought that it was very relevant to the material presented in Module 11. I response to your first question, I tend to use social media to connect with individuals who share similar political views as I do. With the recent Presidential election in the United States and all of the turmoil surrounding police shootings of African Americans, I have become much more vocal about my beliefs via social media. Just as the African American community uses Black Twitter as a way to foster a unique community as well as engage in different cultural conversations, I utilize Twitter as a means of obtaining news regarding politics and sharing my thoughts with people who also align with my political beliefs. Many times I tend to only interact with people who share similar views and use certain rhetoric that I know they would agree with. For some reason it makes me feel as though what I am talking about or sharing on social media with a certain community has a significant meaning. I know that this is not the ideal way to use social media, as you should always embrace all different types of opinions. However, there is something about the community aspect of Twitter that I enjoy. That is why I think that Black Twitter is an amazing way for people of the black community to reject colorblindness and to express themselves as a unique community. One time that I saw a hashtag go viral was when people began using #IceBucketChallenge. Literally after this hashtag started to go viral almost everybody I knew was either participating in the movement or being challenged to participate. Overall, the community really seemed to embrace the hashtag due to its significance. Essentially, the Ice Buck Challenge was meant as a way for people to donate to ALS research, which in all intents and purposes was a very noble cause. However, I’m not sure that people really cared so much about the cause but care more about the “thrill” of being chosen to participate in fad. In this instance there definitely was a movement that resulted form the hashtag, but I feel that the motivation behind the movement was not actually aligned with the cause it was meant to support. In terms of the Black Twitter concept I think that the pros associated with the concept are that it allows African Americans to foster a unique community in the social media sphere. Additionally, it allows for the linguistic expression of black cultural identity on multiple levels. However, I think that cons are that it allows black people to reject colorblindness, which depending on how you think about it could either be a good or bad thing. I personally think its not so good only because it further creates a divide between racial groups. Although race is an important facet of our society, I am a person who believes race is concept of human thinking and that as humans we should try to maintain unique cultures without distancing ourselves from other cultures. In terms of the authors we read about, I think Brock and Florini would definitely agree with the pros while Yang would agree with the cons. Brock and Florini provide great definitions of Black Twitter and its significance in social media culture today, whereas Yang talks about how many hashtags are used as weapons and are not powerful enough to actually incite productive action towards a cause. Anyway, I hope that I provided some useful insights and please let me know if you need any further explanations of the points I brought up in my response.

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  6. Great post! I really enjoyed reading your blog post. I’m not a huge twitter guy and share my thoughts out on my timeline, but I do use social media frequently. I usually connect with my friends from Cal or high school by posting something on Facebook, Snapchat, or Instagram about a topic that we have in common. Also I have followers who play or watch soccer because I play soccer, which whenever i post something with hashtags related with soccer, my followers react. During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I posted a tweet related to it by tagging ESPN and a hashtag, where i ended up getting over 100 retweets. I don’t exactly remember what it was, but it was one of the viral hashtags at that time. Pros of Black Twitter is that they have freedom and power to say what they want and connect with other balck users. Cons would be that they can’t really connect with users of a different race, such as white, which would keep them in a bubble. I believe all of the authors would be on the pros side.

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  7. Hi, great job on the blog post, it was really interesting and well written.
    I personally do not use social media that much to connect with people I do not know, but I still think that using hashtags sends out a message, and that through social media one can feel like one is contributing or supporting a case by sharing and connecting. It feels good to show support and understanding of different situations, whether it is political issues or natural disasters. However, it is worth noticing that “just” sharing is not always a good thing because it makes people feel like they have done their part instead of actually lend a helping hand.
    I have seen multiple hashtag go viral. In addition to the ones that has to do with crises like #prayforparis or #oslove, there are also more classic hashtags like #wcw, #mcm #IceBucketChallenge. I remember when I first got an Instagram it was common to hashtag everything, and a lot of my oldest pictures still has more than 10 random hashtags. I feel like that trend has somewhat died out, but it is interesting to see when some hashtags stay around for a long time and becomes very typical hashtags like #TBT or #ShareACoke.

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  8. I remember #BlackOutDay, where African Americans encouraged Black Twitter to post selfies, videos, and .gifs of themselves in order to expose others to black excellence and beauty. I believe that this was also a form of protest in regard to Donald Trump. Sarah Florini states, “… Black Twitter users align themselves with Black oral traditions, to index Black cultural practices, to enact Black subjectivities, and to communicate shared knowledge and experiences” (2). #BlackOutDay was a great movement of solidarity within the Black community and Black Twitter, and supporters. To offer my support to #BlackOutDay, I remember retweeting A LOT of tweets with that hashtag, and coming from a very conservative hometown (which means a lot of conservative followers), I made a lot of them annoyed. My twitter-sphere consisted of a lot of subtweeting about how #BlackOutDay is really annoying and an inconvenience to them. I thought it was ironic, because I’m sure being discriminated against for hundreds of years is more than an inconvenience to the black community.

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  9. Good job on your blog post! I think its interesting that Black Twitter uses humor to poke fun at pretty serious issues. Reflecting back, that’s also how I like to discuss issues online but also in real life as well. I find that banter is the best way to be able to comfortably discuss serious issues and “signify” that what I am saying isn’t meant to be taken entirely seriously even if there is some truth to it. I think a pro of being able to discuss issues on social media is that so many people have access to the content and it can make for many different points of view. A con of it is that often times discussions on social media become more like an argument or a fight where the “dissing” become real and not lighthearted. Overall I believe that discussing serious issues on social media is difficult to do without humor because of the issue of fights erupting.

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  10. Hi! Thanks for your insightful post. I think that the question of social media and the role they can play in significant sociopolitical events is immense and should be definitely be considered further. Examples such as the extensive use of Twitter during the Arab Spring or the events concerning the Dakota pipeline, or other instances of hashtag activism like Net Neutrality have significantly changed the world as we know it. I think that, to answer your first question, it is generally hard to interact with people with opinions that are much different than your own on social media. For better or for worse, social media are constructed in such a way as to maximize the users’ engagement with the content trending on the platform, meaning that users are often provided with more content they are likely to interact with and that generally means content they approve of or at least the algorithm things they would. There has been a great conversation about the so-called Facebook bubble considering the recent election and I think that given the current data, this problem will persist for a while.

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  11. Thanks for your post!
    I use social media to learn more about areas that I am interested in, and to hear about current events, especially ones that are more grassroots in nature. I follow news outlets and influencers that share similar beliefs to me, not because I intentionally want an echo-chamber, but because I would like to hear news and information that is most relevant to me. Social media also provides a place for discussion where I can connect with individuals from very different environments, over common ideologies and views.

    However, in an effort to combat the echo-chamber, where all the social media and online interaction I have is with individuals with like-minded opinions, I intentionally follow conservative groups and voices. Seeing the genuine activities of conservative Facebook groups, news outlets, and Instagram accounts, allows me to observe audiences with very different views, so I can be reminded of others’ beliefs. For me, this is how I educate myself in balance, and is a reminder of the ideological changes we have left to see in the U.S.

    Most recently, the hashtag that I saw go viral was in response to the U.S. Presidential election, and is #NotMyPresident. It represents the communities (mine included) that feel attacked by the current administration, especially with respect to our social liberties, and the injustices supported by the President. It originally went viral with immense scale immediately after the election, however consistent use of the hashtag has persisted since November. Twitter and Facebook users tag the hashtag on to posts that share the things Trump does in office, especially when unsupported by communities and people, and intentionally silencing and marginalizing minority groups.

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