This year’s SXSW Interactive lineup included a selection of topics geared toward attendees of color thanks to Movement 50, formerly Blacks in Technology at SXSW, and partners such as Moguldom Media Group (our parent company), Blogalicious and the Kapor Center for Social Impact to name a few. One topic that generated a lot of conversation both among panelists, panel audiences and people following via hashtags was “Black Twitter.”
The virtual community, which gained mainstream media recognition early last year, was discussed during three panels: “Not Enough of Us—We are Not All Black Twitter”, “How the Twitterverse Is Changing Pop Culture,” and “When #BlackTwitter Attacks.” Each panel providing different insights into the brown and Black social media enthusiasts who’ve used clever hashtags to declare their agency in 140 characters or less.
I sat on the panel “How the Twitterverse Is Changing Pop Culture” alongside moderator, Kelechi Anyadiegwu; scholar and entrepreneur Kimberly “Dr. Goddess” Ellis; and tech blogger Tatiana King-Jones where the conversation spanned from the term Black Twitter and what it represents, as well as this demographics’ use of social media, to how Black Twitter is mobilizing change and how it’s being used to bridge the gap beyond the states. Hosted by social enterprise Digital Undivided (DID), panelists explored the diversity that exists within Black Twitter, the intellectual conversations taking place and the vernacular used (think: talmbout, bae, or read), among other important topics.
The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life survey has shown that Blacks over-index on Twitter, which King-Jones highlighted. The techie and other panelists stressed that it’s not just made of Black people, rather those who understand and can related to the online community. She likened it to that of the Civil Rights Movement.
“Black Twitter isn’t made up of just Black people,” said King-Jones. “There were white people marching alongside Dr. King to make Civil Rights happen.”
A similar conversation took place during the “When #BlackTwitter Attacks” panel, when MMG’s David Dennis referred to Black Twitter’s mobilization efforts as armchair activism. EbonyMag.com senior editor Jamilah Lemieux countered Dennis’ point by noting there’s a romanticized view of the social movement and everyone played a different role and, with Black Twitter, it’s very similar. She champions the mobilization efforts happening on the popular social media platform; whether it’s referred to as armchair activism or not, it’s affecting change—from opening up career opportunities (ex: Tracy Clayton, @brokeymcpoverty, landing a job at BuzzFeed) to letting people know their voices will be heard (ex: juror B37’s lose of a major book deal).
This same panel caused a great deal of conversation to spark on Twitter for its use of the hashtag #whenblacktwitterattacks. As a panel attendee, the panel hit on a range of topics and discussed the positive and negative perceptions of the group. Bossip covered some of that here.
What do you think about the term “Black Twitter”? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.