Twitter’s Racial Diversity: The Role of Black Twitter (continued)

May 13, 2014 by csj120030

(Continued from here.)

It is natural for like-minded people to want to come together to discuss issues of common interest. The internet has made it much easier for us to form communities with people who we would not ordinarily have access to. Previously, we were able to meet and discuss issues with people in our immediate networks. Now, with social media, we’re able to find mass communities of people who share our interests and participate in online conversations. This is the basic function of Black Twitter.

Black Twitter is not a separate website, but a sub-community that has formed amongst certain Twitter users. The topics discussed within Black Twitter are usually based on popular interests and issues effecting the black community. While the participants in Black Twitter are primarily black, there is no exclusion as to who can participate. Anyone interested in the topics being discussed can contribute to the discussion. This community emerged within the last five years, with some of the first references being made in 2009. The buzz around Black Twitter has continuously increased as important social issue were tackled in the community.

After taking a closer look at Black Twitter, I’ve determined that minorities are using Twitter as a tool for “digital activism.” Sure, some of the topics are more for entertainment. However, when the community does discuss important issues, a real social influence takes place. There is a difference in values being placed on the technology. Instead of just using the network for socializing, important matters are being discussed in an effort to solicit change. I highlight the Zimmerman trial as an example of the influence of the network and the power of the use of hashtags. Following the trial, hashtags such as #ZimmermanTrial, #JurorB37, #StoptheFight and #JusticeForTrayvon helped shape real world events. Following the verdict, many people in the black community took to Black Twitter to respond. Injustice was the primary theme of the discussions and the hashtags were used to tie the conversations together. In the aftermath of the trial, one of the jurors, identified as B37, decided to pursue a book deal, in which she would discuss and defend the verdict. Black Twitter then created discussions around #JurorB37 expressing outrage over the book deal. A petition was created and tweets were directed towards the book agent, Sharlene Martin. In response to the backlash and attention that generated from Black Twitter, Sharlene Martin relinquished the book deal. Following the dropping of the book deal, Juror B37 released a statement saying she would not write the book.

In the paper, I also outline the technical and theoretical aspects of how and why Black Twitter exists. In conclusion, I argue that blacks are not just using Twitter more than whites, but they’re associating different values with the use of the social network. In addition to the social aspect, the black community is placing value in the power to spread information and make online contributions to the culture through digital activism.