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How Black Twitter Exemplifies the Strength of an Imagined Community

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As we all know, social media has become a seemingly-essential part of society and our everyday lives. Described as a “micro-blogging” platform, Twitter revolutionized online communications by blurring the lines between interpersonal and mass communication. As social media scholar Danah Boyd explained, sites such as Twitter serve as networked publics; “the space constructed through networked technologies and the imagined community emerges as a result of the intersection of people, technology, and practice.” Imagined communities are not exclusive to Twitter; the Internet has always enabled people to identify under a shared group identity without coming into physical contact or knowing the rest of the group.

In recent years, “Black Twitter” has been an increasingly popular phrase. Nearly gone are the days when people would ask, “is that different from Twitter? Is it a different app?” Black Twitter is just one of the many imagined communities active on the social media platform. It does not represent all black people but it does extend beyond the United States. Mark Luckie, Twitter’s former Manager of Journalism and News, describes it as a “loose network of people that are discussing African-American-related issues, both newsy and fun.” Black Twitter

From #PopeBars to #ThanksgivingClapback to #AskRachel, some of the most humorous trending topics can be traced back to Black Twitter. Besides humorous takes on society and pop culture, the imagined community has proven that hashtag activism is more than just a digital version of “slacktivism.” The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag gave birth to a full-blown political movement with influence in the 2016 presidential race. Without Twitter, the mobilization and coordination of protests around the nation would have been difficult.

Source: Black Lives Matter

In January 2016, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences came under heavy fire for the lack of diversity among the nominees for the Academy Awards, as critically acclaimed films like Creed and Beasts of No Nation were missing. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag sparked a national conversation about the kind of roles available to actors of color. Within a few weeks, the Academy’s Board of Governors unanimously approved “a sweeping series of substantive changes designed to make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse.”

Within imagined communities on social media, there is a form of affirmation, as individuals realize that they can relate to the experiences of others. This affirmation within certain communities results in amplifying the marginalized voices around, resulting in social change.

Tobi Mobolurin @oomobolurin

Emerging Media Graduate Student

Loyola University

 

 

Works Cited:

  1. Boyd, Danah. It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. Print.
  2. About – Today in #BlackTwitter.” Today in BlackTwitter. Mark Luckie,. Web.
  3. “ACADEMY TAKES HISTORIC ACTION TO INCREASE DIVERSITY.”org. Academy of Motion Picture Films and Sciences, 22 Jan. 2016..