Black Twitter: Trending Topics Paint the Wrong Picture

African Americans reportedly make up 25 percent of Twitter users, but the trending topics on any given day reflect hateful, stereotypical and misogynistic messages. Are we using our large social networking presence to do more harm than good?

Posted:
 
twittertrends

Here's an interesting fact about Twitter: Black people love it. According to a study by Edison Research, we make up 25 percent of the 17 million (and counting) people who use the social networking site. And here's something else about black people and Twitter: We love to start trends -- trending topics, that is.

Twitter defines trending topics as the "new or newsworthy topics that are occupying the most people's attention on Twitter at any one time." Adding a hashtag (#) to a tweet creates a themed, grouped message. If enough people tweet the same hashtag, it's considered a trending topic.

With African Americans disproportionately represented in the Twitter game, trending topics often originate with and are perpetuated by black folks. According to Edison Research, "many of the 'trending topics' on Twitter on a typical day are reflective of African-American culture, memes and topics." Though many trending topics are about specific people, events or silliness like #liesmentell, #itsnotcheating, etc., the mood has recently shifted into far more ignorant territory. Why is this how we choose to wield our power on Twitter?

Trendistic, which ranks Twitter trends, marked the most popular trend one day last week as #hoodhoes (and its similar tag, #hoodhoe). For 16 hours, users tweeted their definitions of a "hood hoe":

"If you only get paid when yo baby daddy get paid #hoodhoe"
"I like #hoodhoe they get a discount on they rent and they always got food in the fridge foodstamps lol"
"#hoodhoe emergency kit= leggings, track glue, cab phone number, ebt card, rush visa card, boost mobile phone and pre paid legal"

Twitter users can be fickle, and what's trending at one moment can easily fall off if enough people aren't embracing it. The fact that #hoodhoes was a hot talking point for 16 hours lets us know that people are co-signing and spreading the message.

All it takes to start up a trending topic is a large following. This was evident last year when comedian Lil Duval (@lilduval) started the trending topic #itaintrape. With almost half a million followers, the comedian was able to spread his misogynistic statements and allow others to get in on the action.

"#itaintrape if you pay for it first …
"#itaintrape if I fly u in"
"#itaintrape if I bout you popcorn and a drink … then u Didnt eat it"

The violent tweets inspired by Lil Duval were condemned by the masses, but there were more than enough people who helped spread his ignorance and create a "black Twitter" zeitgeist for the day.