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?
It's interesting to note which topics don't catch on and trend. The topic #uncletomreporter (also seemingly started by @lilduval) was trending on the same day as the one-year anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Though some people used hashtags #haiti and #haitiday to acknowledge the natural disaster that killed almost a quarter of a million people, the Haiti topic peaked at number 76 out of the day's most popular subjects. Stereotypes of black women can dominate a Twitter conversation for hours, but attempts to commemorate a disaster that killed hundreds of thousands of people and left a million homeless went practically unnoticed.
Of course, not all black users embrace these trends, but the way many of us choose to leverage our loud voice on Twitter speaks volumes about us to outsiders looking in. The source of entertainment for some may be fodder for white tweeters.
Writer Choire Sicha, who is white, even admitted on the Awl to being obsessed with what he termed "Black People Twitter" because of our "hilarious" trending topics. I wonder if Sicha, along with millions of other white people on Twitter, finds himself amazed that this is how we choose to use our power on the social networking site.
Although 2011 has started off with some questionable trending topics, it isn't all bad. On the same day #hoodhoe dominated timelines, once the sun started to set, #thegame took over. The TV series The Game, which BET picked up after the CW canceled it in 2009, was premiering, and "Black People Twitter" went bananas with anticipation. Not only was the show a hot topic, but several of the characters' names were trending as fans tweeted about the did-you-see-what-just-happened moments.
If you didn't remember that The Game was on or about to come on, black Twitter surely reminded you. It's not a stretch to say that the social networking push embraced by fans is part of what helped the newly resurrected sitcom debut with a record 7.7 million viewers.
It has already been proved that we have a strong-enough presence on Twitter to dominate the conversation, but having that power doesn't matter as much as how we use it. Some trending topics just make you laugh and get you through a rough workday, but they can also educate, bring awareness, and even show advertisers and networks that our shows are bankable, as is the case with The Game.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, top trending topics included #mlk, #mlkday and #ihaveadream. At least for one day, positivity instead of ignorance reigned on "Black People Twitter."
Patrice J. Williams is a contributor to The Root. Follow her on Twitter.