Soundly mainstream liberal site Slate demonstrates that, for the millionth time, normal people are fascinated by racial differences and love to talk about them:
The prevalence of these tags has long puzzled nonblack observers and sparked lots of sometimes uncomfortable questions about “how black people use Twitter.”
As the Awl’s Choire Sicha wrote last fall, “At the risk of getting randomly harshed on by the Internet, I cannot keep quiet about my obsession with Late Night Black People Twitter, an obsession I know some of you other white people share, because it is awesome.”
As a nonwhite person, I must concur: It is awesome—although I’m less interested in the content of these tags than in the fact that they keep getting so popular. What explains the rise of tags like #wordsthatleadtotrouble?
Are black people participating in these types of conversations more often than nonblacks? Are other identifiable groups starting similar kinds of hashtags, but it’s only those initiated by African-Americans that are hitting the trending topics list?
If that’s true, what is it about the way black people use Twitter that makes their conversations so popular?
Then there’s the apparent segregation in these tags. While you begin to see some nonblack faces after a trending topic hits Twitter’s home page, the early participants in these tags are almost all black.
Does this suggest a break between blacks and nonblacks on Twitter—that real-life segregation is being mirrored online? (…)
“There’s a long oral dissing tradition in black communities,” says Baratunde Thurston, the Web editor of the Onion, whose funny presentation at this year’s South by Southwest conference, “How To Be Black Online,” argued that blacktags were a new take on the Dozens. “Twitter works very naturally with that call-and-response tradition—it’s so short, so economical, and you get an instant signal validating the quality of your contribution.” (If people like what you say, they retweet it.)
To me, the Dozens theory is compelling but not airtight….
I’ve noticed that black tweeters (assuming their Twitter avatars are accurate photos) do indeed stay up later, use a lot more slang, abbreviations, exclamation points and other punctuation marks.
They’re also are more likely to try to draw little pictures using obscure keyboard characters, and more prone to have spelling mistakes.
I think they are just typing faster, though, not thinking “Hey, ebonics!”
And yeah: “Yo mama so fat” etc.