Before the days of social media, there was such a time where we actually had to wait for media headlines to circulate timely news like awards show results if we missed the initial viewing.
Thanks to platforms like Twitter, Black users have created a new ritual for watching awards shows that allows us to both view and commentate in real-time with other fellow users online.
Black Twitter — defined by The Guardian as “a particular collective of black identities and voices on Twitter taking part in culturally-specific jokes and dialogues that affect the community” — innovated this practice which is sometimes referred to as “family reunions.” This reunion aspect comes into affect largely when major TV and film events air, seemingly creating virtual viewing parties before they became a popular trend amid the pandemic.
Black Twitter’s presence online grew to prominence during the 2010s as an influential cultural force that has called attention to many historic moments such as #BlackLivesMatter, #OscarsSoWhite, and many more.
— BïggTameë 😎🏳️🌈 (@Westsidee2x) June 25, 2017
— CJ (@cjbydesign) February 16, 2016
According to Georgia Tech professor André Brock, Black Twitter offered mainstream, white culture a glimpse at how Black people interact with one another in our own language.
“It was one of the first spaces that white people could see how creative Black people are with our discourse,” he told The Guardian, “and how we used a technology that wasn’t originally designed for us.”
His 2019 statement has now proven to accurately predict the influence and visibility Black Twitter has gained as of recently.
“As much as people complain about Twitter, it has a mindshare wildly out of proportion with its user base,” he concluded. “I don’t see a service that offers that same level of access, distribution and open conversation on the horizon.”
Now with notable awards shows like the BET Awards, Grammy Awards, Golden Globes and others, we have adopted the practice of collectively gathering online in a way where our voices become responsible for creating trending topics, viral jokes, and memes.
As noted by Nielson in March 2019, “award shows in particular provide the unique ingredients to marry content with conversation” — a concept Black Twitter has become known for as we’re the ones calling out new gifs and funny moments to pay attention to.
According to Twitter Marketing, a survey revealed that 81% of users use Twitter as a second screen while watching awards shows. Another survey shared that 85% of awards show viewers say Twitter gives a sense of community during a live show. Hence why the platform has encouraged marketers to start with Twitter’s engaged audiences for brand campaigns during award show season.
Conversations started on Twitter have largely contributed to the buzz around awards shows and why so much effort is put into investing in custom branded hashtags and social media teams who help lead these discussions amongst the platform’s users.
This organic method of connecting and interacting that Black Twitter has created — when it comes time for awards shows — demonstrates just how dynamic we are in using our innovative thinking to create bonding moments online.
The spotlight around awards show season in relation to social media is a fascinating phenomenon that shows the power of these apps. It’s both a teaching moment for how people can capitalize off these digital discussions as well as a case study for how influential Black voices can be around pop culture topics.
Where the rest of the world is often hesitant to credit Black people for their impact on Hollywood and entertainment, the numbers prove time and time again that we are the leaders in the cultural commentator space. Without Black voices on social media, awards shows would not be as big of a spectacle online as they are today.