Featured, Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

How Twitter Made Me A Better Man

I first logged on to Twitter in 2009. I was (and still am) a Black man, the first in his family to attend and graduate college. By proxy, my pursuit of post-bachelor education was also a family milestone. This is more or less an elongated way to say whatever privilege people think Black men have, I was likely in possession of it. And if I had to personify the care I wielded the privilege, it’d look a lot like a shirtless JR Smith in Las Vegas.

I thought I was the “last of the mohicans” when it came to “good Black men.” I was a single, childless, and ambitious. I was broke, but the illusion of a six figure salary to follow after my law degree made for an intoxicating boost of hubris. In short, I was kind of a dick. I thought I knew everything and I thought I was smarter than everybody.

Until I got to Twitter.

Twitter, for all of its faults, has done a masterful job of grabbing people from all over the world and putting them within arms reach. While it can occasionally get bogged down in politics, pettiness, and Michael Jordan memes, Twitter may very well possess more information within it than all of the encyclopedias in the world’s largest libraries combined. With so many thoughts and ideas in one easily readable space, one’s worldview can expand. That expansion has an intimate relationship with the person’s willingness to be receptive. And after a while, that’s exactly what I started to be.

I’ve been through enough unfortunate events on Twitter to give Lemony Snicket a run for his money, but one of the best examples I can provide about my growth is my stance on rape. My opinions on rape were, at best, wholly ignorant.

I threw my lot in with the “women can avoid being raped by not doing this” coalition. My tweet rant on that particular day was  a series of “warnings” to women on how NOT to be sexually assaulted. I’d long held the belief that rapists were men secretly hiding in the bushes to jump out on unsuspecting women as opposed to the brothers, fathers, friends, and roommates — men the victims know quite well — they mostly are. I thought I was helping. I was wrong.

The women responded to my erroneous thought process with words and phrases that would make even the darkest among us blush bright red. It was a brilliant lesson on how male privilege rendered me ignorant on the struggles and survival tactics women employed on a daily basis. In hindsight, I should’ve spent more time reading and obtaining information than throwing out any form of preventative maintenance, but, I foolishly thought I knew everything. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the first time I’d get my “jaw tapped” for having the wrong opinion.

Growing up in my neighborhood, words like “gay” and“faggot” would drop randomly in conversations like Acme anvils from the sky. “Gay” somehow became synonymous with “disapproving,” so anytime something happened we didn’t like, it’d be “gay.” If we wanted to go to the movies and we didn’t have any money? Gay. If we wanted to hoop and there was nobody to hoop with? Gay. If we got into a fight and wanted to incite the other person to violence, calling them a “faggot ass nigga” was a sure-fired method to expedite any delayed ass-whoopings.

I didn’t have any friends from the LGBTQ community prior to Twitter and if I did, they weren’t “out” yet. Social media put me in direct contact with people gay/bisexual people. I never considered myself homophobic, but I most certainly made use of homophobic language. When I was younger, there were no checks and balances so I wasn’t fully aware of how those words affected them.

As my social circle has expanded, I’m aware of how my previous predilection for that sort of speech would be at odds with those relationships. I don’t know that I would’ve ever had that revelation had I not made friends who happen to be gay and I’m not sure I would’ve ever made those friends if it had not been for Twitter.

The biggest leap I’ve made within the last seven years though, has been my thoughts and feelings on Black women. To say that the relationship between Black men and Black women on there can be tenuous is akin to saying the Game of Thrones book series is “pretty long.” I perceived there was a canyon-sized chasm between Black men and Black women. However, it turns out it was mostly between smart and sane people vs fuckboys and faux intellectuals. Still, there’s something to be said about the way Black women generally have our backs and how many of them feel that loyalty isn’t reciprocated. And, more than any other medium, Twitter helped educate and enlighten me. Particularly in regards to feminism — which is ultimately just the concept that men and women are…equals. It’s what introduced me to people like Feminista Jones, @Awkward_Duck, Netta, Jamilah Lemieux, and countless other women who introduced me to ideas I’d have never considered.

Twitter has vastly improved other aspects of my life, too. I read an average of 7-10 articles a day because they’re on the timeline. And the improvements haven’t all been all serious and/or political. @ChefResha’s mac and cheese recipe was with me the first time I ever made it. 

In effect, Twitter has not only made me more self-aware but it’s also made me self-critical. It’s really opened my eyes up to a world beyond the one I inhabit in “real” life.

Garfield Hylton

Garfield Hylton is a Florida based freelance writer and editor. He spends most of his days writing articles for The Smoking Section at Uproxx while contributing long-form articles to Abernathy Magazine and Seven Scribes. When he's not arguing with people on Twitter he's thinking of all the ways he can become a New York Times bestseller.

  • urban dictionary

    twitter: A form of chatline for social media “experts” to add thousands of random strangers and wank off to impress other social media “experts” by posting links to articles about the phenomenon of social media

  • KingsCounty

    still can’t believe Twitter is free.
    Twitter has taught me a lot, and I know I still have a lot of growing and learning to do. Sometimes I wanna react and hit that tweet button but the lynch mob mentality regarding some topics, I can’t handle.
    Twitter taught me about street harassment and a bunch of other things regarding how women are treated and how they feel.
    Sometimes discussions like r*pe/consent/intoxication needs to be had and ppl that don’t immediately convict upon an allegation are called apologist and other things and I wish that weren’t the case cuz I’m quietly reading and learning and evolving I hope and when those discussions turn to personal attacks I can’t learn from them.
    This mornings events on the TL made me feel that black men ain’t ish and sometimes it seems like the only time we get love is if were shot by police.
    But like I said, I still have a lot of learning to do.

    • Jennifer

      “still can’t believe Twitter is free.”

      Shhh! Just don’t let Jack hear you saying that. You know they’re struggling financially.

      • HouseOfBonnets

        Thank you, don’t nobody wanna pay for this gold lol

    • miss t-lee

      “still can’t believe Twitter is free.”

      I really need y’all to stop saying this sh*t before we get hit with a subscription model.

  • Yup

    Well written; thanks for sharing! An expanded social conscience is the best that Twitter has to offer, fer sure.

  • catgee12

    I have a “friend” who still doesn’t fully understand how twitter works. She would gladly take any tips,help, instructions, etc. I am sure she thanks you all in advance.

    • miss t-lee

      It’s not hard. You just kinda jump on there, follow a few people. Make good convo, and then other folks will follow you back. Wash, rinse, repeat.

      • What do you find is the difference between Twitter and VSB? I’ve never actually done what you just suggested. But it seems similar. Obviously twitter has a larger audience. But this visually seems more user friendly. What am I missing?

        • miss t-lee

          On Twitter I only talk to the folks I want to talk to. Granted my account is private. I don’t invite any and everyone to converse with me.
          I guess that’s the only difference. VSB–it’s a free for all.

          • Do you have a preference? If you had to give up talking with folks on Twitter, versus talking with folks on VSB….who would you give up?

            • miss t-lee

              Probably VSB.
              I know a good chunk of my twitter peeps personally, VSB, not so much.

              • Interesting. I guess a lot of folks actually make friends through twitter and vsb and the such. I guess the internet is the ultimate match.com. If only there was an eharmony that combined all your information and set you up with your future best girl friends and guy pals.

                I would start the search for a good gal pal on Twitter. But I’ve noticed a theme in my life. None of my good friends really use social media. I think I attract non-twitter user personality types. I kind of like it. Cause I don’t have to read stuff they say that annoys me. But maybe I’m missing out. Maybe I should try to expand my circle. There might be some souls I should be interacting with…but I haven’t opened the door to it.

                • miss t-lee

                  Expanding circles is always good.

              • LMNOP

                Well, I’m glad no one’s going to make you choose.

                • miss t-lee

                  LOL
                  I can’t leave y’all alone.

    • Just follow VSB and Alex Hardy, then follow anybody they retweet.

  • Val

    This post almost makes me want to sign up for twitter. But, alas, no cell phone and also I’m really just not interested in having any more social media in my life. But, I’m glad the author was open-minded enough to learn and to grow. Which is really the point, I suppose. Twitter was just there when he were ready. Not to mention that twitter can be used for evil purposes as well, as we’ve talked about earlier today.

    • cyanic

      You don’t need a cell phone. You can sign up via your computer.

      • Val

        Now, see, I didn’t need to know that. Lol

        • cyanic

          It took forever for me to sign up for Facebook. Sometimes I wish I never bothered. I stay stuck on Twitter because it feels like rapid information in real time.

          • mr. steal your costco samples

            twitter has the worst folks but best jokes.

            • cyanic

              I thought I was pretty funny in my response to Countess’ video on Twitter.

          • Val

            I consider deleting my fb page at least once a week.

            • cyanic

              I don’t like strangers having access to what I look like. And I hate knowing those who are no longer friends with me having at laugh at my image.

            • Tambra

              Just do it. I did it and never looked back.

            • cakes_and_pies

              I deactivated for a 1.5 years and on and off for months at a time. I only hold onto it because of my private groups in which I can speak and act freely.

              • Val

                Yeah, I have a couple of groups I really like too. That’s a main reason I haven’t deleted it.

          • That first year of facebook is fun. Then people start actually talking to you.

            • Tambra

              I thought part of the fun of FB was communicating.

              • There’s a reason why you haven’t talked to some of these fools since high school.

                • Tambra

                  I know, but when I was on FB, my experience was you friended, said hi a couple of times and then it was back to the same old, same old.

              • Val

                I mean, I’m happy to reconnect after all these years but other than checking Like when you get married or have a kid or travel to Bora Bora I really don’t want to talk.

                • Tambra

                  I can relate.

            • RewindingtonMaximus

              Then…then people from your past start finding you. The people you never liked….and then they say stuff like…hi.

              Ugh.

              • Tambra

                Don’t they go back into the dark after they friend you?

                • RewindingtonMaximus

                  Always. I don’t even know why I go along with it.

                  • Tambra

                    Human nature.

                  • Blueberry01

                    Don’t do it. Don’t reheat those cold french fries!

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Yes.
          You.
          Did.

          Stop playing and join the dark side, one eyed wonder.

    • miss t-lee

      Val…get on your computer. Come on over to the dark side.

      • Val

        Not gonna do it, T. I already spend too much time on social media, as you know. Lol

        • miss t-lee

          Hahahah.

    • kingpinenut

      Yeah…I don’t tw@t either…..someteim

    • Tambra

      Girl. I am not really big into social media. I do not know if whatsapp can be considered. Oh and I got snap chat but that was because I wanted the filters and lenses only to discover that my phone was too old to get anything beyond the basic.

      • Tam got atari on her phone, lol

        • Kas
          • Nik White

            Y’all so wrong!

          • You win, lmao!
            That’s cold…

            • Tambra

              Past.

              • Can’t believe yall still on here. I’ve left work, drove home.
                Them again, I’m just as bad by peeking in.

                • Tambra

                  Sleep and wake.

                • Kas

                  It’s addictive

        • Tambra

          I would have you to know my phone is a s3 mini, that has been dropped 3 million times and shows it.

    • Kas

      What the what!!! No cell phone? Just wow!

      • Tambra

        She said that yesterday. Everyone was floored.

        • Kas

          She is clearly a computer program that has mastered human humor.

          • Tambra

            Maybe that’s why we have never gotten the full face.

            • Kas

              Also hard to get her off topic, unlike the rest of us. I did catch her trying to use logic during the Blackest Names discussion. I’m telling you . . .

              • Tambra

                Yup. That is when she lets loose she is savage.

        • Nik White

          Actually she said it awhile ago but I thought I was the only one surprised/shocked/in awe about it.

    • I could never do Twitter. 140 characters can’t contain my greatness.

      • Kas

        As Mark Twain would say, sorry for the long letter, but I didn’t have time to write a short one.

        • Daniellesmiller

          <<fb… ?????????????????????????????????????????????????????::::::!iw213t:….,……

      • Tumblr did for me in 2010 what Twitter did for him. Don’t go there now though, it’s awful.

    • cakes_and_pies

      I have twitter but I simply can’t understand how to read twitter. I get it’s usefulness and impact, but it doesn’t work with my dyslexia. I can’t determine what who is saying what to who most of the time.

      • LMNOP

        I don’t have twitter, but I read tweets when they make the “news,” and I am always so confused. I’m glad it’s not just me.

    • Nik White

      I’m on LinkedIn, look at my Mama’s FB and read Tweets here. I’m good.

      • You lucky…
        I gotta sneak on my moms open page to keep deleting crazy pics of me from forever ago.
        :(

    • cakes_and_pies

      What the Hale are you using? Pigeon carrier service through Tumblr? Just FB groups? Your social media presence pathology puzzles me. Gimme you Tumblr addy.

      • Val

        Why does it puzzle you? Lol

        • cakes_and_pies

          Because you’re an enigma, and I’m a voyeur who dreams of ramen noodles and the Fibonacci sequence.

  • Janelle Doe

    in addition to being free and educational. i have found that Black Twitter is also very entertaining.

    And lest I forget, the ebroji app … wow.

  • K.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    1) Chef Resha is bae. I’m gonna marry that woman. Dunno how. But I’m gonna do it.
    2) We’ve equally had the same 3 issues shown to us as being wrong, except I learned these lessons outside of Twitter
    3) I just go on Twitter last December, but my tweets are filled with feminist, racism opposing, down for my Black women til the day I die font that I never in all my years was so adamant about before.

    Ergo I will always be grateful to @teehails. I owe her for not only putting me on to Twitter, but giving me the actual chance to meet @feministajones, @Nettaaaa & @Luvvie at an event for Blavity a few months ago. If it wasn’t for that, then I wouldn’t have learned about @JamaliahLemieux who I then met twice.

    And to think it all started out on VSB first. Ha.

    • Jennifer

      ChefResha has a recipe for shrimp Scampi over Parmesan Grits as her pinned post. I’m sold!

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        I’m on it! Buying my groceries this weekend and making half the things she has on her site..

        Lemme try yours when you make it!

        • Tambra

          You actually try the recipes?

          • RewindingtonMaximus

            Not yet. But I’ve watched her Youtube videos, and people on Twitter are always showing pics of them trying her recipes, so I have to try now.

            • Tambra

              Because I have a couple people on YouTube, but I never actually get around to doing anything. The only site on the net I really use is joyofbaking. But enjoy.

              • RewindingtonMaximus

                I’m tired of my cooking, so it’s time to spice it up with something different. But now I’ll try joyofbaking too, thanks love.

                • Tambra

                  I made the statement the other day that I need to find a very rich man to have 3 chefs on rotation or find a man who will understand that I will only cook 2 days per month. Everyone laughed at me. They didn’t know how much I was hurt. But I am fed up of my own cooking. No probs with the joyofbaking. Anytime hun.

                  • Can a bruh get a pie, just one pie.

                    • Tambra

                      Yup. Tell me what kind and I shall make it for you.

                    • Peach.
                      Deep dish.
                      I’ll even mail you a pan to show you how cool I am wit it.

                    • Tambra

                      Aite. We on.

                  • RewindingtonMaximus

                    When you find said rich man, just tell him I am bae on the side that will never touch you, I just wanted in on the food.

                    • Tambra

                      Aite. I shall do just that.

  • I have mentally split twitter in two. Information twitter/ and I don’t understand what else is happening here twitter. I know it isn’t true. But I think everyone not apart of information twitter is “I thought I knew everything and I thought I was smarter than everybody.” Twitter. I wish I could figure out a way to navigate the other side better. Although I do have VSB for an outlet to write down random thoughts in my head that no one gives af about. And it makes me feel like i’m still actually talking to someone. Who? I don’t know. I really have learned a lot from IG. Instagram has been quite enjoyable/useful for seeing/interacting with people around the world. I feel I can go to Russia, the Ukraine, Tanzania…and know there’s someone who is gonna be genuinely over the moon to see me. That’s neat.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      Well your IG is fun.

      • for who? People who need reminders that their letter of recommendation is almost due? LOL

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          You just post some very interesting pictures and then give folks simple things to do to improve themselves

      • Medium Meech

        You should post some best of pics of hers and the other VSPs pics for us non social media types. And also from Val’s Tumblr after 10pm eastern. You know, with FCC fines and whatnot.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Hmmm…Meech you might have just given me a part time job

      • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

        Now IG I mess with…

    • Blueberry01

      You can use Twitter as your online journal.

  • Vanity in Peril

    I really like your writing style and hope to hear more from you here.

    Admitting that our past thoughts and actions can be wrong but that you can get right at any time, so important.

    Bravo n sh*t.

    I forget to use twitter unless folks are live tweeting things I like or Im in facebook jail.

    • Val

      Fb jail?

      • Vanity in Peril

        Facebook shuts my account down every few weeks/months usually bc some troll reported me from the Son of Baldwin page.

        The last time I told some whylaydee that she needed to origami fold herself up her own tw*t.

        • Val

          Son of Baldwin? Interesting? Hoteps? I asked because fb locks me out on the regla. It doesn’t like my browser since it can’t get the info it wants from it or follow me around.

          • Kas

            All secretive and shitz. We cain’t see you, but we see you.

            • Tambra

              Says the guy who has Arthur as his avi

              • Kas

                You saw my picture when I had it as my Avi, no?

                • Tambra

                  No.

                  • Kas

                    Changed just for you.

                    • Tambra

                      Awww. Not bad looking. * wink*

            • Nik White

              At least there are 2 eyes now.

          • Son of Baldwin is a gay dude who has built his entire writing career out of mining the thoughts of Black feminists.

            • Val

              Is he on tumblr?

              • He was. Might still be. If he is, his presence is significantly less now. There were weeks worth of call-outs

            • Do tell….

            • And dude comes off as a MAJOR tryhard. I straight up blocked him.

            • Janelle Doe

              Kind of like the Asian who dates black women guy? (Or whatever that particular Facebook page is)

              • not familiar with that fellow

              • Jennifer

                The Love Life of an Asian Guy

            • Jennifer

              Well, that was reductive.

          • Janelle Doe

            I want that kind of browser. Tell me more if you can please.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          I kind of want to see that happen now

          • Tambra

            Why?

            • RewindingtonMaximus

              Seeing someone fold their head up their t*at has to be the stuff dreams are made of

              • Tambra

                I guess I have a really poor imagination cos I aint seeing it.

        • Nik White

          “Origami fold herself” will be used later – thank you and carry on.

        • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

          There sounds like there’s a story here VinP….

        • Mochasister

          What a creative insult!

      • Yeah it’s a thing.. I’ve been twice.

    • Live tweeting The Wiz was EVERYTHING.

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