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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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