Black Twitter

To myself, and I know a significant portion of friends, “Black Twitter” is largely known for this:

–       Spectacularly crafted insults.

–       Spontaneous campaigns of insults. Target? Everyone is at risk.

–       Inevitably lame and predictable attempts to better insults.

–       Give it an inch in banter, and it will take a mile and turn it into a V Festival mud bath of gossip, lies and defamation of character.

–       A point-blank shooting range

–       Mayhem

–       Twitter Hell

Stuff to make you wince eh? Well, it wasn’t until recently that I personally started to wonder how the term came to be coined, why it overwhelmingly lives up to the stereotype above, who does it represent, and how the hell can we change this around for good.

Anyone who’s lingered long enough online until the ‘magic moment’ hits, knows full well the kind of Love & Hip Hop chaos that can descend on the TL in a matter of seconds. In fact some of us are so well in tune to its characteristics, we even know how to predict its arrival and warn all our followers with stuff like “Oh it’s black twitter time” “Black Twitter gon’ arise & shine in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” “#BlackTwitter”. It’s almost like an altar call for every disgruntled black person on twitter to gather, not to repent, but to perform. For those of us with self-discipline and higher ways of thinking, we know it’s time to log off & leave this particular praise and worship session before we see some mess that will have us angry, and tweet-fighting with people who don’t really care about the point – they’re just there purely to argue/be malevolent/get a RT. If you’re new to the faith though or just borderline ratchet anyway, you’ll log off from active participation and watch all the while with curiosity, glee, delight and metaphorical popcorn, as another person/issue/thing gets unceremoniously slain in an attack on “Black Twitter” (we’ve all done this at one time or another). Furthermore, sadly, I’ve noticed sometimes “Black Twitter” hijacking serious issues/discussions pertaining to the black community, and turning them into a projectile vomit of foolish, ignorant and offensive ad-libs. All for the sake of ‘banter’.

I find it interesting, because something occurred to me recently, which kind of helped convict me of not even sub-consciously endorsing “Black Twitter” antics by repeating the arguably cruel banter, jokes or insults I see in that “space”. And it was this – there are now a reasonable amount of articles in established publications, about the dominance of African-Americans on Twitter [Forgive me for no links. I can barely find one that isn’t slightly patronising in content, even the ones by black people, but you should know how to use Google by now]. They largely talk about how it is swiftly becoming a major method of communication in the black community, and this fact is now catching the attention of the wider world.

And I just thought to myself: Are we missing a trick here? Could we be using this great platform and influence that we have in this space, for a much more committed approach to good? Could we be changing our world? Are we reinforcing stereotypes of us, or are we building new perspectives? These questions were ones I posed in specific relation to what I perceive are overwhelmingly negative associations to the term “Black Twitter”. I concede that there is a ‘side’ to “Black Twitter” that does not revel in the abuse and savage cutting down of people for temporal online satisfaction or popularity. This is a side to “Black Twitter” I would like to see more. However more often than not, I see this faction (we’ll call it), drowned out by buffoons with no real understanding of the now very tangible and apparent power they have online.

Without getting drawn too much into discourse around the apportioning of the label “Black Twitter”, I think my point is that as black people regardless, we ought to be conscious of the rising influence we have in the online sphere, something unprecedented, very much accidental, but essentially very useful. It’s not that every day we must sound like Olaudah Equiano, or be the Rev Jesse Jackson taking up every cause under the sun with a black person in it (does he still preach anymore?). But in world that is clearly still coming to terms with our equality as human beings, such opportunities to crush stereotypes and make a difference, should not be wasted amidst negativity, hatred and cruel banter.

Yours Truly



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