Evolution of the #BlackTwitter Hashtag #F

This post originally appeared on December 26, 2013 written by founder, Tara L. Conley.

Did you know that the first person to tweet the phrase “Blacktwitter” was Juan Freire (@jfreire) six years ago? When Juan tweeted out the phrase back then he was referencing Blacktwitter in the context of new forms of mobile and social media marking the death of PCs, notebooks, blogs, and web 2.0.

Oh, how times have changed.

Today the term Black Twitter takes on an entirely new meaning. Black Twitter even has it’s own Wikipedia page and scientific diagram (but not really).

According to Topsy, the first time the hashtag #BlackTwitter was tweeted out was back in 2009 when @ungaro tweeted a link to a now defunct URL.

Perhaps the most widely cited moment when the hashtag #BlackTwitter (and subsequent Brown Twitter birds) hit mainstream headlines was when Farhad Manjoo (@fmanjoo) published an article on Slate, “How Black People Use Twitter”. In the article, Manjoo writes:

Black people—specifically, young black people—do seem to use Twitter differently from everyone else on the service. They form tighter clusters on the network—they follow one another more readily, they retweet each other more often, and more of their posts are @-replies—posts directed at other users. It’s this behavior, intentional or not, that gives black people—and in particular, black teenagers—the means to dominate the conversation on Twitter.

The meaning of Black Twitter as a cultural phenomenon has transformed over the past several years. The hashtag attached to Black Twitter conversations signals to the archiving of cultures online; an evolution of being and signifyin’ in a digitally social world. As Dr. Andre Brock (@DocDrewrites,

Black Twitter’s public element revolves around the hashtag, a user-created meta-discourse convention. The hashtag (“#topic”) was initially deployed to filter and organize multiple Tweets on a particular topic (Messina, 2007). Initially intended as a curational feature, hashtags quickly evolved into an expressive modifier to contextualize the brusque, brief Tweet. The hashtag’s evolution, I argue, led to the “discovery” of Black Twitter. Black Twitter hashtag domination of the Trending Topics allowed outsiders to view Black discourse that was (and still is) unconcerned with the mainstream gaze.

Every now and then I chime in about Black Twitter, a community I’ve claimed long before it was a thing to claim.

Over the summer, I chatted with Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill), Kimberly C. Ellis (@drgoddess), Feminista Jones (@FeministaJones), Rosa Clemente (@rosaclemente), and Samuel Foster (@blunted215) on Huff Post Live about how Black Twitter, particularly in 2013 has been used as a tool for engaging in online social activism. I also talked about how experiencing Twitter, especially Black Twitter, is like sitting on your back porch talking with friends and acquaintances, but instead of talking face-to-face, our interactions are mediated by way of @replies, retweets, and hashtags.

How do you think Black Twitter has evolved? Speak on it below and tweet us at @hashtagfeminism, use the hashtag #BlackTwitter!