Exploring The History of Black Twitter

Following the years after its launch, Twitter will have morphed into a social media empire that has the ability to reach around the world with just a few characters. Like with any innovative technology or social media invention, POC was among the first to download and make use of the platform.

The summer of 2006 was one that was filled with emotional and highly recorded events. From Apple’s major win over a trademark dispute with the Beatles and Google buying YouTube to the heart-stopping terrorist attacks in Mumbai and the execution of Saddam Husain, there are plenty more that were less publicized. 2006 also brought with it the start of what is one of the biggest social network platforms in the world today, Twitter.

Following the years after its launch, Twitter will have morphed into a social media empire that has the ability to reach around the world with just a few characters. Like with any innovative technology or social media invention, POC was among the first to download and make use of the platform. Today, we have Twitter and Black Twitter, both housed on the same platform but speaking to completely different audiences. Today we will explore the creation and growth of Black Twitter as well as take a look at where it may be headed in the future. 

Social Spaces for Black Faces

Before we touch on the advent and growth of Black Twitter, we first need to see what made it possible. From the middle of the 90s all the way to around 2007, there were not very many places online for black voices. Melanin and BlackPlanet were the main POC communities online during the time, but they simply didn’t gain the traction needed to stay relevant. Facebook has been around for a while as well, but even then it was not really the sharing tool that we see today. The advent of Twitter, a platform that supported what black people do well naturally made the rise of Black Twitter possible.

Putting Our Words To Use

There is one thing about black people that no one can deny. As a people, we are great orators and storytellers. The majority of our history is not recorded in books, but rather has been passed down orally through music, dance, and stories. On Twitter, the whole platform focuses around speaking your piece, although within the limits of a few words. So, the platform was launched in 2006, and like most social media platforms it took some time before it really started to see widespread use. The application of #hashtags to promote the topic of a Tweet in the same way keywords were used changed the game on the social media platform forever. 

The Creation of #Black Twitter

The actual creation of #BlackTwitter can’t be attributed to any single person, however, there are a few trends that made it happen. One of the forces behind the creation of the Black space on Twitter is Ashley Weatherspoon. She was a personal assistant and a prior pop singer herself who was looking for social media strategies that would stick. While looking for hashtags that would trend, when she posted the #uknowurblackwhen tag in early September of 2009. Within 2 hours of her post, more than 1% of all tweets included the hashtag. Of course, almost all of those using the #uknowurblackwhen tag were POC. This viral tag was just the start of the weaving of Black culture to create what is now known as Black Twitter. Not long after the tag went viral, there were some stories published in The All and Slate talking about what POC and the Black community had to say on the platform. At the time, black people rejected the idea of a separate area being named Black Twitter, however, over time, the community embraced and owned the space.  

The Evolution of #Black Twitter

Between the years 2008 and 2012, #BlackTwitter was mainly made up of millennials. This group of POC users was just getting out of high school or in their first years of college. While they had the same responsibilities as everyone else, social media as a whole was really coming into its own. This group of people would often take to Twitter as well as other social media platforms to make their voices heard. At that time, it was mainly about fun, trends, music, and just being black in a space with others all across the country. For the most part, Black Twitter remained pretty tame and also pretty insular in terms of content.

In 2013 and 2014, this would change. Black people as a whole had already carved out a space and a way to communicate with each other on Twitter. With POC-focused hashtags and other keywords, events and issues important in the black community could be shared at a rapid pace. This ranged from politics and social issues to injustice and acts of racism. Some of the most popular hashtags of the time are still around even today. In 2012, Trevon Martin was killed and despite his mother’s cries for help, she went largely unheard. Thanks to POC across the country, her cries were taken to social media, specifically to Twitter, which shined a much-needed light on the atrocities that had been committed. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter started trending then and has been used ever since to bring light to issues of race-based crime in the United States.

Of course, the multiverse that is Black Twitter really came together in 2014. The tragic events that occurred in Ferguson, Missouri showed the world the power that Black people have on the ground and social media. When Michael Brown was murdered and left on the street for several hours, the news had nothing to say. However, Black Twitter came alive with a vengeance. Pictures, videos, calls for justice, and more flooded Twitter, specifically Black Twitter, which is one of the main reasons that action was taken. George Floyd and many other victims were also able to get justice thanks in part to the massive following on Black Twitter. 

Black Twitter Today and Into the Future

While Black Twitter has been a driving force in helping victims of racial violence get the justice they deserve, it is also much more. The space is used to help drive political discourse, set trends in fashion, commerce, the arts, music, activism, and so much more. Black Twitter is a way for POC to be seen and heard on a global scale. The platform has been a place to construct, to imagine, and energize the community together. Of course, we can’t end our post without mentioning that Black Twitter is the world’s main source of premium memes and other hilarious content. One thing we will do as a people is to make sure that we have a good time even during the bad times.

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Image Sources:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2019/dec/23/ten-years-black-twitter-watchdog

https://www.news18.com/news/buzz/twitter-changes-display-pic-and-bio-to-blacklivesmatter-to-protest-george-floyds-killing-2646141.html

https://people.howstuffworks.com/black-twitter.htm4

https://www.elitedaily.com/social-news/black-twitter-breaks-the-internet/1779294

https://www.phillyvoice.com/top-10-black-twitter-hashtags-2015/

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