Law in the Internet Society

Black Twitter and Community Building in the Advent of the Internet


I came into this class with a specific interest in the role the internet plays in the practice of community building in the modern era. While the internet has many downsides, its benefits cannot be ignored. As a child that attended a predominantly white high school with only six Black students, I found community with other Black teenagers online. To many Black youth in America, Black Twitter is simultaneously our Greenbook, our watchdog, our comedy cellar, and our news all rolled into one. However, does that translate to actual community building? Is Black Twitter a community? Are Black teenagers less lonely?

Who/What is Black Twitter

To truly understand the impact of Black twitter on community building, one must first define Black Twitter. According to UVA professor, Meredith Clark, Black Twitter is “a network of culturally connected communicators using [Twitter] to draw attention to issues of concern to [B]lack communities” ( She goes on to say that it is “the culture that [Black people] grew up with. It’s the culture that we experienced in our lives and school, in the workplace, with entertainment – and you see conversations coalesce around specific cultural moments.” Clark specifies that Black twitter is not a separate or hidden platform. Rather, Black Twitter describes the phenomenon of how Black people use Twitter (or X) to communicate and draw attention to issues of concern to Black communities.

We often hear older generations blame the internet for weakening communities and negatively impacting how we interact with one another. We see Sherry Turkle have similar critiques in Alone Together, pointing to the loneliness that and disconnect created by social media. Yet, Black youth on Twitter have managed to create and sustain this influential network for over a decade. The question however, is whether this network can be considered a true community that helps Black youth with a sense of belonging.

Community v. Audience Building

The next step in understanding the impact of Black Twitter on community building is to define the word community. Former Community Consultant for Reddit and Nike, Alex Angel, defines the term community as “a group of people who share common interests and want to connect with other people around those interests” ( There are four key characteristics of a community as described by the VP of Marketing & Community at Community Leaders Institute, Adrian Speyer. The first is that it is “a shared space for people to gather and connect” ( Second, the people within this space “share a common language (jargon), customs, interests, or passions.” Third, they “share voluntarily and among themselves in this space.” Lastly, people within the space must “feel a sense of belonging in this group and are genuinely interested in supporting, assisting, sharing, and learning from each other.” The problem with community building on social media is that people often conflate it with audience building. Many online “communities” are actually audiences. The identifying differences between communities and audiences are the “relationships and the flow of communication.” Audiences tend to have a “one-to-many relationship” with the flow of information usually going in one direction (“from the primary voice to the audience members”). Conversely, a community has many-to-many relationships (“between the primary voice and the members, but also between the members themselves”) and the flow of information is multidirectional. This model encourages mutual sharing and exchange of information among members.

Black Twitter: The Community

If we consider the above mentioned characteristics, Black Twitter meets many of the requirements of a community. Members of Black Twitter engage in an information exchange where all members are encouraged to share knowledge, advice, humor and their thoughts. The flow of information on Black Twitter is not one way. The information flows in various directions. There is no primary voice on Black Twitter. Any average person on Black Twitter can go viral and it is unique in that, the viral moments on Black Twitter are often made viral by the commentary of everyday members of the Black community. Additionally, Black Twitter has its own jargon, sayings, “inside” jokes, and customs. Terms like “Yaaaaaasss,” “Bae,” “Snatched” etc, were catapulted into mainstream pop culture mainly due to Black Twitter's use of them online so much so that platforms like Essence have compiled Black Twitter dictionaries ( The information exchange and the use of jargon allows Black social media users to create a subculture and community online.

Taking an optimistic view of Black Twitter, one could argue that the most important community building aspect of Black Twitter, however, is the sense of belonging it affords to Black folks, specifically Black youth. As someone who has attended PWIs most of my life, I personally looked towards Black Twitter to feel seen and to feel like I belonged. Like me, many Black youth think that, with Black Twitter, they are able to tap into and build community with people of a shared identity who share similar experiences as Black people in America. While the memes and jokes are staples of Black Twitter, one of the key uses of the community is the acknowledging and addressing of various socio-political issues impacting Black America today. Black Twitter gave us hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, #ICantBreathe and #OscarsSoWhite, hashtags that began ways of affirming Black folks and voice their frustration ( These hashtags, however, quickly led to mobilization and advocacy for Black people by Black people.

The Benefits of Black Twitter: A Social Movement

While Bentley University Professor, David Stamps, doesn’t dispute the negative effects of social media, he maintains that “‘The existence of social media has allowed Black individuals to share their grievances, celebrate their successes, call attention to injustice and build awareness around cultural issues”’ ( With the creation of the Black Twitter community Black issues that were traditionally ignored or minimized were suddenly gaining traction online. In the early 2010s this began with the community being a watchdog, calling out powerful figures and corporations for harmful behaviors like cultural appropriation, saying the N-word, and various other microaggressions ( Gone were the days of powerful figures perpetuating these behaviors in the dark or without criticism. Black Twitter became a widespread tool for accountability. While mainstream society has dubbed this as “cancel culture,” Georgia Tech professor, André Brock, disagrees, saying that Black Twitter is not simply acting out of anger or vengefulness, but rather ‘“People who have been affronted or hurt or wounded finally had a voice to make gatekeepers take notice” (

Today, the negative effects of social media are constant topics among members of our society. Turkle, specifically, argues that the perceived connectivity that social media uses have is in fact leading to loneliness and anxiety among teens. She found that, despite this ability to connect with numerous people around the world, youth are still experiencing significant loneliness. Additionally, Turkle discusses how social media pressures them to alter themselves, both in appearance and persona, to portray images to the liking of their followers. These alterations may can appear cooler, or thinner, or more popular. The result is an increased anxiety about what others think. This is not true connectivity. Turkle acknowledged that virtual relationships can be life-changing, but stressed that this kind of online connections can not only affect the self-esteem of users, but also creates an unhealthy attachment to these virtual places, forming human-like connections to inanimate objects.

However, one must wonder to what extent Turkle's points apply to Black youth. She does not look at the realities of Black youth specifically. Therefore, their unique experiences, especially those at PWIs, and their search for a sense of belonging is not one that Turkle focuses on. Other studies that look specifically at Black youth at PWIs, found that they have a unique experience of feeling , “profound feelings of alienation, consistent awareness…and difficulty in social and academic integration” ( The study found that, like me, many of the Black students studied believed that social media positively influenced their sense of belonging, especially because it gave them access to other Black students( However, they also reported having negative experiences, including constant exposure to negative commentary, dealing with judgment from others and interacting with gossip ( The study concludes that, “knowing the role identity plays in [sense of belonging] for Black students, there is cause for concern for the amount of time combined with the amount of negative content students are encountering on [social networking sites], as it pertains to their [sense of belonging]” ( Black Twitter does not exist in a vaccuum, it does not insolate Black youth from this reality.


Whether it is through the humor about everyday struggles, or excitement about Black cultural moments, or even the shared grief of yet another Black life lost to police violence, Black Twitter offers Black folks a space where our humanity is not just acknowledged but celebrated. For a people that has historically been marginalized, misunderstood, and neglected by mainstream (white) American society, that counterpublic sphere can be extremely valuable. However, social media, Black Twitter included, has been the cause of increased loneliness and anxiety among some Black youth. Thus, the positives of this counterpublic sphere may not actually translate to actual community building.

There's no actual sociology here and very little academic thinking of any kind. Turkle's Alone Together, which I assigned, contains both an argument relevant to your subject and a wealth of serious social psychology literature that you need. I think the road to an improved draft starts there.

-- GueinahBlaise - 28 Nov 2023



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r3 - 11 Jan 2024 - 04:48:18 - GueinahBlaise
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