Tuesday, January 18, 2011

African Americans, Twitter & Troubling Trending Topics

Photo Credit: Miralize
From Patrice J. Williams:
"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?

...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.

...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."
To read Ms. Williams' complete article on TheRoot.com, click here.

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