CultureSocial Media

About This Whole Black Twitter Thing…

The phrase Black Twitter started as a joke when people realized the power of Black people who use Twitter. People started noticing that we were driving hashtags and trending topics. Then Nielsen did research and found out that African American women are the most active group on Twitter.

Since then, #BlackTwitter has become a THING that folks study and report on. Slate wrote a piece called “How Black People Use Twitter” in August 2010. It wasn’t that good and it wasn’t nuanced, nor did it talk about the complexities and power we have. BUT one great thing came out of it, and that was Inny Vinny’s brown Twitter birds.

Brown Twitter Birds Inny Vinny

She created them to poke fun at the illustration that was used in the piece (a brown bird holding a blackberry while rocking a fitted cap) and it turned into a hilarious thing, with people creating all these birds. On her post, @InnyVinny said:

“I figure that if Slate and the world are really that intrigued (and because Twitter can’t provide empirical data on who is who), those individuals who want to be identified as a black person using Twitter should be able to do so with a brown bird wearing a fitted cap in a color that best represents them.”

And so began the meme. People created and requested their own birds and we had a good time with it. Black Twitter was HERE. Born from the obsession of how Black folks live and what we do and how we do it. Many more #BlackTwitter articles have come out of mainstream outlets since then.

But… now? Something about the Black Twitter coverage makes me uncomfortable and it was hard for me to pinpoint why. In fact, I’m probably about to do a bad job of explaining my problem with it, but bear with me and deal.

Deal with it gif

The other day when the #BlackBuzzfeed trending topic started and got REALLY good, I tweeted that I want people to actually write some of the pieces they were pitching. Why? Because they were BRILLIANT ideas and I’d love to read them! Plus, if we don’t profit off our original stuff, someone else will. Ideas are nothing. Execution is everything.

And of course BuzzFeed has posted at least 3 pieces that were inspired by some of the tweets (22 Essential Pieces Of Relationship Advice Learned From “Martin”). As they should have.

There’s A LOT of interest in #BlackTwitter and my hope is that whoever profits off this trend the most looks like the people who claim it. But that is often not the case and I see that as a huge problem. That #BlackBuzzFeed hashtag should have led to AT LEAST 10 people writing those articles (either on their own sites or as a community post on BF). But nope. BuzzFeed staff wrote it.

We are letting other people tell our stories.

sigh cat gif

Become a content creator sometimes instead of a consumer always. Notice I said SOMETIMES. I’m not saying start blogging every day. Or start posting long diatribes. No. Just sometimes, tell your story instead of waiting for someone else to do it.

Some of the folks who join in on these trending hashtags are brilliant! I LOVE the wit, the intelligence, the discourse and sometimes even the shade on Twitter. Black folks have created these deep communities that make social networking a delight. A lot of y’all are funnier than some professional comedians. Start getting something from your brilliance (besides 20 more followers).

There are folks with hundreds of thousands of tweets and they’ve never seen a dime from their time spent on Twitter. I want them to start a blog and get some Google Adsense coins from followers reading their online homes. I’m not saying everyone who is on Twitter needs to be there to make money but we get mad when people see the profitability of our ideas. We, the originators, have to start making our own things. Ideas mean very little until they’re executed. Technology and content creating are the future and there’s power in being able to tell your own story HOW you want it to be told.

Like A Boss gif

Again: this is not to say everyone should have a blog and the only reason they should be on Twitter is to make money. NO NO NO. That is not what I’m saying. BUT I want people who have 400,000 tweets to be able to say they got something tangible off their time on there. If it’s an expanded network, or them building their voice. Or great relationships. SOMETHING.


The reason why I don’t like MOST of the convo around #BlackTwitter is I feel like we went past the initial joke into trifling territory. Black folks are trendsetters in EVERY way. We not only dictate culture; we ARE culture. But the conversation around #BlackTwitter often takes on a “OMG LOOK AT THE BLACK PEOPLE.”

We are more than trending hashtags. And we are more than a monolith, which people have repeated over and over again. But I also want want us to be cognizant of what is happening and how we don’t always tell the story of how we want to be represented well.

Last night after seeing Don Lemon’s CNN feature on Black Twitter, a white lady tweeted “What is the difference between #BlackTwitter and #WhiteTwitter?” The responses she got included things like ass eating, chicken, basketball and paternity disputes.

seriously gif

We are more than the parts that make up our sum so there is space for some of that, I guess.

Again, I repeat. WE ARE MORE THAN TRENDING TOPICS. And this #BlackTwitter trend feels like what happens when people start laughing AT you instead of with you. Remember when Dave Chappelle felt like his show went past the point he wanted it to? That’s how I feel about this whole thing.

It was cute in the beginning but now it’s HA HA HELL.

We are too smart to be represented as people who sit on Twitter playing dirty dozens with the worst hashtags all day. The hashtags I end up blogging about are the ones I think show the best of Twitter; the ones that show the intelligence and quick wit. The #PaulasBestDishes and the dragging of Chuck Woolery the bigot. We do unite for epic wig snatches often.

But that’s not only what we do on there. In case you need someone who does a good job of highlighting the dope things Black folks do on Twitter, check out Brokey McPoverty’s social media column (The Grapevine) on The Root.

But that Slate article from August 2010 is the same type of article being written in July 2013. And there lies the problem.

Not here for it gif

The mainstream conversation about how Black people use Twitter hasn’t evolved in THREE years. And for me, it feels divisive how it’s positioned. We don’t use Twitter in one way, just like white folks don’t. But we DO drive conversation. Just like in regular pop culture. Our influence on Twitter is similar to our influence in music, and fashion. We’re just awesome and people wanna know how we are the definition of cool. I get it.

If they want to know how Black people who are really active on Twitter use it, I can help. Twitter is a support system, a global classroom, a job hunting site, a sitcom in words, and sometimes even a 1st date you don’t know you’re on. It’s an activist’s dream, a recluse’s fantasy, networking on steroids and connection building on SWOLE.

What do Black people do on Twitter? We joke, we live-tweet shows, we inform, we protest, we network, we do too much, we don’t do enough, we do just what we’re supposed to and we produce awesomeness in 140 character spurts. DASSIT.

You’re welcome.

Sexual Chocolate drops mic gif

Do you understand what I’m tryna say here? Am I the only one who’s slightly put off by this Black Twitter convo? Talk to me.


Join the Awesomely Luvvie FB page | Follow me at @Luvvie on Twitter | Instagram – @Luvvie

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  1. happy_girl
    July 19, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Nope, you are not alone. I noticed that there was something missing from the “Black Twitter” dialogue a while ago. I feel like White people the miss the good in us because of all of the ratchetry (much of which we thoroughly enjoy), and that’s not fair. That’s exactly what is happening here. They don’t get it (they don’t get us), and they are waaaay too comfortable poking fun at our community. I can’t deal.

  2. Lenore
    July 19, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I completely agree. I was with #blackbuzzfeed until it got stereotypical (though still iliciting a small chuckle). I think the woman asking about Black twitter v White twitter was being genuinely inquisitive. WE control how people see us and need to stop falling to stereotypes just for retweets.
    Also please have another blogging 101 class! I was hemmin’n’hawwin about a blog until I read this “rant” on twitter. Checked your link and class was full 🙁

    • July 19, 2013 at 9:59 am

      Right, Lenore! People always take thing past the point of HA to WHY???

      And I AM having another Blogging 101 class. It’s in 2 weeks and there’s still some spots left.

  3. July 19, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Well done, Luvvie. I could sense your frustration and it’s warranted. In a way, these digital extensions of ourselves reflect our personal struggles with apathy and mediocrity. People tweet without thinking and show their ugliness on a regular basis for the amusement of others. At the same time, there are pearls of wisdom but they don’t do more than have a fleeting moment of brilliance…and then nothing.

    I see the same thing with my Caribbean people. We use Twitter to spread gossip, wig-snatching, voting music videos, etc. but that’s about it. People like us are voices crying out in the wilderness. Hang in there.

  4. jn
    July 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

    It bugs me that some members of “Black Twitter” spend their time dragging on their least favorite celebs, or spend time defending their favorite celebs. There I said it and I ain’t taking it back.

    • July 19, 2013 at 11:20 am

      Speak your peace, guhl.

  5. July 19, 2013 at 10:37 am

    *standing slow clap* O.O

    Luvvie, we’re dating now. You and me, us never part. Akidada!

    • July 19, 2013 at 11:19 am

      So you gon buy me shoes on our anniversary or nah? I’m just asking.

      • July 24, 2013 at 10:41 am

        Shoes?! What is this shoes business?! Just the shoes?! More like shoe STORE! Whaaaat?!

  6. march pisces
    July 19, 2013 at 10:38 am

    ummm, please allow me to say thank you for helping me understand what black twitter is. 🙂 i swear i have been totally lost up until this point (never read other articles on the subject). i didn’t understand it as recently as monday, but it finally clicked with me b/c of this post.


  7. July 19, 2013 at 10:43 am

    Very well written article, as usual. It truly makes me think about how my time is best spent. Thank you for a thought provoking topic.

  8. squashbanana
    July 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Have you submitted anything to Jezebel, can I send them big ups for you? On this article specifically? They seem to be one of the higher exposure blogs to have guest black female bloggers. That would be a good way to get this point of view out there, to people who think they know who or what black twitter is.

    • July 19, 2013 at 10:46 am

      I’ve never submitted for Jezebel. I would like to contribute to them one day but I’ve never attempted to.

    • squashbanana
      July 19, 2013 at 10:56 am

      And I don’t mean that as a cut to your exposure sort of way,I think you are incredibly talented,and a trailblazer in blog media. I enjoy your website, especially dumbest tweets, thank you for writing this. I wish this point of view had just as much exposure as buzzfeed, in which most articles are just lists of gifs with two sentence quips between nerds and their friends. I know this because I’m a record store nerd.

      • July 19, 2013 at 11:01 am

        No, I feel you though. My blog is small, compared to the BuzzFeeds of the world. Would I like more people reading? Sure, but I love the community I’ve built here and the people who do read.

  9. Deekie Mack
    July 19, 2013 at 10:51 am

    So, yeah. You knocked this out the box, Rick. Knock em out Rick!!!

  10. Tiffany R. Paige
    July 19, 2013 at 11:03 am

    THANK YOU, THANK YOU,THANK YOU!!!! My spirit has been in unrest all week. The same recurring theme is that we need to change the dialogue, conversation, discussion or what have you about US. And WE are the ones that will have to do it. Media showcases what they want about us. This article just gave me even more fuel with which to fight. Right before seeing this post, I was just running a new idea passed a friend that is in line with exactly what your are speaking and she even mentioned black twitter and then I saw your post. This could go on so I’ll just stop here, but again THANK YOU, THANK YOU,THANK YOU!!!! It’s been passed time for US to tell OUR story.

  11. July 19, 2013 at 11:08 am

    I may be speaking out of turn here, since I look exactly like my Twitter avatar, but I think most of the mainstream discussion is, as usual, led by fearful old white guys who think any group of people who are not exactly like them is either up to no good, plotting something, on the verge of becoming an unruly mob, or all of the above. They’re overlooking the fact that in general, we tend to form relationships around a common interest, be it faith, food, politics, sports, sex, travel, or whatever else floats our boat. I follow Corporate Barbie because she’s funny as hell and Fooler because I cover cops and courts for a newspaper and can identify with her courtroom stories. Assuming that all friendships are based on race or that all members of a group (racial or otherwise) march in lockstep seems woefully naive at best and unconscionably condescending at worst.

    • July 19, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      You aren’t out of turn at all. In fact, that’s why this interest in ‘black twitter’ is so bothersome – we aren’t so different a group on twitter that it demands articles and investigations. We’re people. We talk, we talk shit, we rally, we laugh, we cry, and we do it on twitter. No biggie, right?

      • BellaKnows
        July 24, 2013 at 2:09 am

        Yessss! I’m tardy to the party (subtract points for “WIG” reference), but what disturbed me most about the Black Twitter conversation was that black people were the ones disparaging it. I actually unfollowed one of my favorite twitter famous quasi blogger/host of The Read/feminist. She snobbily tweeted that “Black Twitter makes me think of Instagram trashiness and f*ckboys.” That killed my soul. Why dismiss ourselves? I am a card carrying member of Black Twitter; it’s okay to take pride in belonging to this group.

  12. embraceurcrazy
    July 19, 2013 at 11:09 am

    I agree with you. We should be writing more instead of just tweeting. Consumerism is the huge downfall of twitter, people can’t tell the difference between making a difference and just making noise. There is a unique voice that could be doing amazing things. I will try to do better Luvvie.

  13. HowlingBanshee
    July 19, 2013 at 11:43 am

    Also, I loves me some AdBlock Plus, but I disable it for this and some other sites that I feel like I can “relate” to. Don’t know how much that helps (if at all), but you know. It’s the principle, I guess? #GoogleSubsidizesMyLuv4U #TillICanDoBetter

  14. JustJozie
    July 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    Yeah…there was something about the recent #BlackTwitter coverage that was missing. I couldn’t put my finger on it. I pretty new to actively using Twitter. I used to just follow folks (like you) who live tweet my favorite shows. I started tweeting more b/c of Scandal but #BlackPrivilege changed my whole view of it. That was my first exposure to BlackTwitter. Truth.

    But over the past couple of weeks, I have been more uncomfortable with the coverage, and its bc of your points raised above. I agree with you, and I don’t like it.

    I am working on my own blog so your upcoming class is timely for me. I signed up.

    Thanks for putting words to something that was hard to describe.

  15. Michelle Humphress
    July 19, 2013 at 1:17 pm

    So goes the Ink Well, so goes underground hip hop, so goes Black Twitter. 😉

  16. July 19, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    Luvvie – you can deny it all day long, but you are my best friend in my head. It is through Twit Peeps like yourself, The Ferocity, Steenfox, Desus, Brokey McPoverty, and the illustrious Cocky McSwagalot that have really made it a great experience. You may sometimes do hoodrat things with your hoodrat things, but you have been socially conscious, sensitive where needed, and above all else, y’all keep it real.

    I know I missed some folks, but I follow some quality Black Twitterati, so…there’s that. I appreciate you and keep doing what you do!

  17. I GET YOU BOO!!
    July 19, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    I get it, I totally get it!! At first I was kinda offended about the hashtag #BlackBuzzFeed because it’s like why do we always have to separate ourselves from the masses. But as I read your article, I immediately thought “BRILLIANT,” “F**KING BRILLIANT.” LOVE, LOVE, LOVE IT AND WAS HERE FOR IT ALL DAY!!

    Then I went looking for links to some of the most funniest titles that gave me nostalgia for some of our greatest ’90’s hit TV sitcoms and music artist. But I knew better, because I try to get people to blog “All day, any day, every da*n day!”

    I have a couple of blogs of my own and I really love sitting back getting a deposit in my checking account from Google Adsense to pay my bills. To sit back and write about what you love and get paid for it is everything.

    Luvvie, I learned a long time ago that everyone is not go getters, not sure if it’s fear of the unknown and just trapped into this box of having a safe 9 to 5 job and coming home and just playing on Twitter.

    I just think you need that entrepreneurial spirit and someone great to back you up, because the support system for entrepreneurs from family and friends is non-existent mostly. I know first hand, but you have to prove them wrong. Even writing one article is a fear for failure and people have to realize fame don’t come that easy.

    I love that you wrote this article because maybe it can get some people to step up and starting blogging, even if it’s just on Blogger for now.

  18. Dara Shultz
    July 19, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    I agree with every single thing you’ve passionately written about here…but I CANNOT STOP LAUGHING AT THAT “Deal With It” gif!!! I must have it! Where can I download it and then share it with the world (giving proper credit to whomever created it, of course)??? 🙂

  19. July 19, 2013 at 5:09 pm

    I am completely disturbed at the weird fascination CNN has developed with negores, like we’re some obscure never discovered tribe in the Amazon.

    Remember that episode of the Cosby Show when Clair was on a political show, but they only wanted her to give ‘the Black opinion?’ That’s how I feel about CNN – and all cable news lately. Black people are more than just ‘the Black opinion.’ But by putting us in this ‘black box,’ it perpetuates this fascination like we’re this weird “thing”

    • Mrs. Woods
      July 19, 2013 at 8:07 pm

      Right?!? We have been here for a while. Why are we so new?

      On another note…I’m tired of being “the voice of all the black folks” at work. Can’t I just be another point of view?

  20. July 19, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I got a twitter account a long time ago but stopped even checking because I realized it just contributed to me watching other people live. I’d laugh at the things people said but I wasn’t doing anything of my own. I think that’s probably what happens with lots of people. It’s comforting to know where to go for laughs or to find people you identify with. It’s terrifying to take the action to build an online community for yourself, in your own space. Then you’re responsible for keeping it going and for being consistently whatever (funny, insightful, controversial).

  21. July 21, 2013 at 8:29 am

    This was so great to read, not only because you are awesome, but I’ve learned some history of Black Twitter that I didn’t know

    This week my local news gave positive coverage to Black Twitter (yes really!) Link –>

    I tweeted this to DrGoddess bc she was featured in the tv broadcast, but also since she highlighted at NetrootsNation, during the #askasista forum that blacks are some of the most prolific users of Twitter- yet Twitter can’t seem fit to hire us! So that’s another economic aspect to Twitter we are missing out on.

    I’m part of the ‘social justice’ Black Twitter (although I enjoy the humor too) so I’m one of those that won’t necessarily be monetizing my posts (blogs or twitter). However I have gained so much from my social media presence thru connections, training, professional recognition and opportunities. are right tho.. We need to be more actively promoting how Blacks are more than to be laughed at/with ..but also can also be engaged with in serious discussion on things that effect the MSM coverage I posted here. We are making good progress tho, and that’s with the help of bloggers like you Luvvie and posts like this. 🙂

  22. Kpb
    July 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Maybe I’m wrong, but if you’re concerned about how others judge you on social media, perhaps you shouldn’t share every personal opinion, thought, or story. Twitter is available to everyone with access to the Internet, so by making your comments public it allows them to be scrutinized and criticized by the public. If you keep your comments to yourself or among friends, you will no longer have to worry about judgement or criticism.

  23. Duane R. Olson
    July 21, 2013 at 5:48 pm

    Until the American people ‘wake-up’ there will always be this “black-problem”. I am here to say, that it’s an American problem for all races and ethnic backgrounds. “WE, the people” have been trampled on by our elected and appointed representatives in Washington and until “WE, the sheeple” wake-up, I’m afraid “equal justice for all” will continue to be a problem! gramps

  24. July 22, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Luvvie- you BROKE IT DOWN. The problem is deeper than just us not turning our ideas into a paycheck.

    I have a real problem that platforms like Twitter, who have made millions of dollars and raised significant amount of investment dollars because of black folks, yet they’re not hiring us. Black folks comprise an estimated 25%-%40 of all US Tweets, but less than 1% (more like .01%) of their staff are black. For a while, there was only 3 black engineers out of approx 1000 engineers. Lack of STEM education is NOT to blame for these numbers.

    This is important because one of the ways new wealth, real wealth, is being created is from stock options from your company going public. If we do not work for a facebook, twitter, etc then we can’t participate in the wealth that we’ve help create. The Facebook IPO (IPO= initial public offering, meaning they raised money from offering stock to the public), created like 1000 millionaires and even a larger number of thousandnaires. Imagine if the number of black facebook employees was even half of our presence on the platform. How many new black millionaires would have been created?

    Why aren’t Jesse Jackso, Al Sharpton, etc protesting Twitter, Facebook, Paypal, etc?

    So instead of #BlackBuzzFeed, may be we should start a campaign to encourage them to hire black folks. #BlackTwitterEmployees

  25. Gladiator In Pink
    July 25, 2013 at 12:03 am


    This was a well-written piece and I definitely understand your frustration. Thank you for bring the background of Black Twitter to light. It is a shame that some of the brilliant commentary is not expanded on for the world to see. Often 140 characters is all that folks can muster if they don’t consider themselves writers. Some may be hesitant to open themselves up to the scrutiny that a full blog would bring on, but classes like yours will help build confidence.

    I enjoyed #PaulasBestDishes and #TavisWeeps but I realize that we walk a fine line when I saw actual racists (neo nazi and other) jump onto black twitter using the same hashtags. We need to know when to stop, be constructive, and shift the discussion.

    A shout-out to all of the folks that commented that Twitter and Facebook should hire more Blacks to reflect the users of their social media.

    I most enjoyed the last paragraph of your article when you said:
    “If they want to know how Black people who are really active on Twitter use it, I can help. Twitter is a support system, a global classroom, a job hunting site, a sitcom in words, and sometimes even a 1st date you don’t know you’re on. It’s an activist’s dream, a recluse’s fantasy, networking on steroids and connection building on SWOLE.

    What do Black people do on Twitter? We joke, we live-tweet shows, we inform, we protest, we network, we do too much, we don’t do enough, we do just what we’re supposed to and we produce awesomeness in 140 character spurts. DASSIT.”

    Pure Awesomeness! Thanks Luvvie!

  26. July 25, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    I love how you broke this #BlackTwitter thing down. I couldn’t have said it quite like you did. After reading it, I felt all warm inside lol. If there’s never been a time for us – especially young, able and intelligent Black people – to unite, it’s NOW. We have everything it takes + more to make so many changes in the world. For a while, I felt that every other race noticed this BUT us. . . I mean look at the exploitaiton of the Black neighborhoods and communities by Asians, Indians and Caucasians. But your article gave me hope that we still have a chance. I’m writing a book. It’ll be done in a few weeks. When it’s done, I’ll be sure to let #BlackTwitter know about it. THANKS!

  27. July 28, 2013 at 12:53 am

    Great article! I feel the same way..I believe that we are about to become the butt of our own joke. We must put a stop to it now and in order to do that we need to tell our own stories. Which is one of the reasons I created the SASSIES (sista’s advancing second screen interactive engaging stories)! We need to be writing blogs, web-series and apps that tell our stories in our own voices. The Digital Entertainment Revolution is real! Be one of the Sassies and get involved!

  28. August 2, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Damn girl this whole piece was excellent. I try like hell not to see a person’s skin color, I just wasn’t raised that way. How you treat me determines how I treat you and what I think of you.

    Someone mentioned Jackson and Sharpton earlier. Frankly I think YOU guys make MORE of a difference than those blowhards ever will. YOU Luvvie are the real deal and you will be one of those forces of positive change, not just in the black community but in the HUMAN community.

    The powers that be argue that we need a serious dialogue about race in this country. Screw TPTB, we don’t need them, we need us. We need black and white folks like me and you (and all the people here) talking, discussing, debating and exchanging ideas and thoughts and opening each other’s minds and hearts.

    “What do Black people do on Twitter? We joke, we live-tweet shows, we inform, we protest, we network, we do too much, we don’t do enough, we do just what we’re supposed to and we produce awesomeness in 140 character spurts. DASSIT.”

    May I go one step further and say we white “folks” are pretty much doing that very same thing, or at least most of us. So really there’s not a whole lot of difference between us is there?

    • LLB
      April 1, 2014 at 9:36 am

      I’ll chime in here as well – these blowhards need to go away, shut up, and let the younger generation take over. No more shakedowns.

      And, no more groupthink. Black people who don’t dove in with what Black people folks are all supposed to be about have just as much to contribute. And instead of begging Facebook and Twitter to hire more black people, maybe get that entrepreneural spirit going and come up with the Next Big Thing that will surpass FB and Twitter?

  29. […] dissertation is on Black Twitter. By now, in Twitter time, the topic is somewhat staid. A few key influencers have posted their […]

  30. […] never ceases to amaze me.  It actually grinds my gears and I kinda touched on it in my “About This Whole Black Twitter Thing” piece from last […]

  31. […] or not you embrace the term (there are legitimate concerns about seeing African-American users as a distinct population, and questions about who exactly falls under the label — everyone who’s black, or only […]

  32. […] or not you embrace the term (there are legitimate concerns about seeing African-American users as a distinct population, and questions about who exactly falls under the label — everyone who’s black, or only […]

  33. […] Luvvie. (2013, July 19). About This Whole Black Twitter Thing… [Web log post]. Retrieved from […]