The Rise of Black Twitter

Credit: Thinkstock

Twitter has been in session since 2006, and regularly through studies, Black people have been the largest percentage of users, second to young people in the tween to 23 years old bracket. By 2010 roughly, the social media juggernaut had inspired an identifiable nickname, as a portion of tweets became known  as “Black Twitter.”

Black Twitter encompasses tweets and hashtags primarily created by Black people who obsessively and quite curtly respond to popular culture and the most bizarre happenings of the national news. The term first gained notoriety through the most visited and shamelessly salacious sites dedicated to the gossip of Black celebrities.

Fast forward to 2013, and mainstream outlets began to give notice to these marvels of wit and sass, courtesy of everyday Black people. While the phrase may not seem out of place on sites already concentrated on Black individuals, already laced with inside jokes from “Bye Felicia” to Martin memes, does the acknowledgment take a different form when it’s being recognized by outlets not run by African-Americans, such as Jezebel or USA Today?

Black Twitter, for those not of color, is a guilty pleasure and voyeuristic opportunity into the real-time thoughts of a very opinionated group, and while sometimes the tweets are highly insensitive to their own brothers and sisters, on the flip side the results are genuine relics of comic genius. Last year alone, these hashtags earned guffaws: #PaulasBestDishes, #BeyonceThinkPieces, #ArmaniCaptions, #RacismEndedWhen, and they were all snarky responses to situations that were either so outlandish (e.g. Paula Deen’s racist mishaps) or without a doubt White America catching so late to staples of Black culture that became adopted  for the masses (like #ABCReports in which Black Twitter lampooned ABC for actually trying to educate us all about “twerking”). The hilarity would get even more outrageous if a celebrity or reality star blindsided themselves in being caught in a trap, such as #AskRKelly and #AskDraya.

Once Black Twitter became the hottest, most entertaining tag for that little blue birdie, other sites tried to mimic their own “listicles” of sorts about the absurdities and good times of Black life, but were often major fails as they came across as artless to the subject at hand rather than intelligent, reversed satire (check out BuzzFeed’s ridiculous post “Do You Have An Inner Sassy Black Woman?” Really? Someone actually greenlit that for a post? #notamused).

So what makes Black Twitter so Black? Is it for the simple fact that Black people are tweeting at record numbers, or is it a bigger acknowledgement that the information and commentary being tweeted are a bigger windows into the psychology of how (media savvy) African-Americans are responding to a world that seems to get more and more #SMH (shaking my head) with each passing year?

In a way, the term Black Twitter seems to place the phenomena into a box, as if Black people are in their own little world (for better or worse, perhaps?) in which mainly White American machines thrive on. Why isn’t there the term “Tween Twitter” or “Ignoramus Twitter”? Any avid user of the platform is fully aware those would be packed to the max, and there’s something for everyone no matter your interest or complaint.

Still, the best thing we can get out of Black Twitter is that it may be the most reachable form of brutal honesty on the Internet today on issues that continue to divide the country such as economics, race, and the archaic yet revived class system. The whole point of Twitter is that you write what you feel in the moment with no chaser. Due to being watched more and more by curious ones apparently not a part of the audacious movement, maybe this will provide more insight into the plethora of things wrong with how the aforementioned are handled and despite our attentions spans occasionally allowing acts like Kimye our focus, the audience is a lot more aware than they’re rarely given credit for. If the media wants to give Black Twitter a lot of shine, there’s a nice big mug of keeping it real waiting to be taken down.