Social networks are going through an identity crisis. In the 15 months since a change of ownership shook the foundations of Twitter (now confusingly rebranded as have failed, and the reason is simple: none of them are Twitter.
“I’ve told myself several times that I would leave Twitter, but 15 years later, I’m still on the app,” says Kary Jackson, who joined the platform in 2009 after a friend created an account for her. “I was sitting in one of my marketing classes in undergrad and I received this BBM (BlackBerry Messenger message) from my best friend. Not knowing who or what Twitter was, I logged on. My first tweet was ‘How do you use this?’”
Like most users, Jackson quickly adapted to its rhythms and found camaraderie among like-minded black users, many of whom were forging what would soon be known as black twitter, the creative and cultural engine of the platform. What originally fascinated Jackson about the service—live tweeting, bonding over shared experiences, and the bold honesty of its users, several of whom were experimenting with new codes of expression—is also what has kept him in the game. platform as continued changes, from increased ads to delegitimizing news, have soured its usefulness under Elon Musk’s ownership. “As unbearable as Twitter has become, it’s still very important,” he says. “When important events happen, whether it’s about our nation or even pop culture, Twitter is always my go-to source for real-time updates.”
Jackson is not alone. The reported user brain drain appears to have minimal consequences on Black Twitter boulevard, where first wave users share a sense of ownership over the platform. “I will not let any white man take me off this app. We built this shit, brick by brick”, user @fabfreshandfly tweeted recently.
“X’s user base and monthly visits have refused something since the takeover, but the magnitude of those declines has been moderate,” says Deen Freelon, a communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in computational social sciences. “Some evidence suggests that the drops are mainly due to fewer new users joining the platform rather than old users leaving it. “X still seems to have a pretty vibrant black community and I can’t say I’ve noticed fundamental changes in their collective behavior.”
Fundamental changes: no. What has happened, instead, is a renewed emphasis on creating spaces of worldly connection within the platform’s increasingly messy ecosystem. “We’re still here, thriving during the apocalypse by supporting each other and laughing at stupid things,” user @PaperWhispers he tweeted last week.
Modifications to the algorithm and a laissez-faire approach to moderation have given X an air of sustained chaos. Black Twitter, however, doesn’t care. Many users have doubled down on nutritious spaces of enjoyment amidst the anarchy occurring on the timeline. “I still look forward to live tweeting my weekly shows, live award ceremonies, and engaging with my mutuals,” says Jackson, who lives in Houston and works in human resources. More recently, she has noticed that there are moments when Black Twitter remembers simpler times. “Black Twitter is more vigilant than ever, which I love. There is a sector that does not allow black Twitter to infiltrate. I love it when outsiders get hit in the head and everyone else just does the same. “We really are like a family.”