How Black People Use Twitter


Vibe / August 16, 2010

(Slate) As far as I can tell, the Twitter hashtag #wordsthatleadtotrouble got started at about 11 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday morning, when a user named Kookeyy posted this short message: “#wordsthatleadtotrouble ‘Don’t Worry I gotchu.” A couple minutes later, Kookeyy posted another take on the same theme: “#wordsthatleadtotrouble – I Love Yuh *kiss teeth*.” On Twitter, people append hashtags to categorize their messages—the tags make it easier to search for posts on a certain topic, and they can sometimes lead to worldwide call-and-response conversations in which people compete to outdo one another with ever more hilarious, bizarre, or profane posts. A woman in South Africa namedTigress_Lee moved the chatter in that direction: “#wordsthatleadtotrouble ‘the condom broke’!” she wrote. From there, the meme took off. “We need to talk #wordsthatleadtotrouble,” declared BigJamaal (11,920 followers), and then he proceeded to post a blizzard of suggestions, including “#wordsthatleadtotrouble I dont know why you got that Magnum in your wallet you clearly live a Durex lifestyle.

Over the next few hours, thousands of people added to the meme. According to Trendtistic, a site that monitors and archives hot Twitter topics, #wordsthatleadtotrouble was one of Twitter’s top 20 hashtags on Sunday, and it was the top tag that was not based on some real-life event (like the Teen Choice Awards or football). By Monday morning, Twitter was displaying #wordsthatleadtotrouble on its list of “trending topics.” If you’d clicked on the tag, you would have noticed that contributions to the meme ranged from the completely banal (“#wordsthatleadtotrouble we just going out with friends!”) to the slightly less so (“#wordsthatleadtotrouble I didn’t know she was your sister”). If you clicked when the meme was at its peak—that is, before it spread widely beyond the cluster of people who started it—you would have also noticed something else: To judge from their Twitter avatars, nearly everyone participating in #wordsthatleadtotrouble was black.

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