How Twitter Made Me A Better Man » VSB

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.

  • Stanley

    This article is my story to a tee. It really was twitter and patient black and latina women who learned me up.

  • Yes sir!!! Twitter gives a voice to the voiceless.

  • miss t-lee

    I can’t really say twitter made me a better anything.

    As my bio says, “Lover of music, books and people. Proud Texas girl. Sh*t talker and throat punch extraordinaire. Sweet tea connoisseur”
    Started out that way, still that way.

    However, I’ll always be grateful for the people I’ve met via twitter, that I probably never would have met otherwise.
    I appreciate my curated TL, and the intelligence, wit, humor, support and f*ckery that they provide.
    It’s my little utopia.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      so… aint gonna let me talk to you on there, are you?

      • miss t-lee

        If you find me, send me a request. :)

        • Kas


      • *hint* *hint* miss_tlee

        • miss t-lee


        • RewindingtonMaximus

          lmao i found her now

  • A.G.

    Re: the cost: Twitter should definitely NOT be free at this point (thanks @jack!) So much entertainment. My TL like a 24-hour version of VSB comments: hilarious, insightful, Black.

  • I have the opposite happen to me on Twitter. I usually avoid negative people and republicans but not on twitter. They are everywhere. I really had to learn to prune my timeline. I over did it at first and ended up with mostly twerk videos. Eventually I found a balance (and talked to Tracy Thoms and LL Cool J). I can’t say that I learned much about myself there. I like bigg booties and rappers. I was well aware of that. It is fun to read my drunk tweets on a Sunday morning, though.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      post your handle bruh


      • @cogitohayes

        • I just followed you. Can’t wait for the drunken stuff!

          • btw. You don’t wanna follow me. Its just information.

          • Y’all are such good influences.

        • Followed..

      • @negrawitgtumbao

      • Followed

      • @iluminatinyc

      • Ess Tee

        Ooooo. Can I join?!

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Anytime Ess!

      • -h.h.h.-


        • RewindingtonMaximus

          lmao bruh

      • PriceIsRightHorns

        I love you on tha Twitta. Keep shining.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Trying to make you proud darlin

      • Blueberry01


        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Got you!

    • This is hilarious

    • Val

      Always the drinking with this one. *in Russian chick voice*

  • Twitter has gotten me some booty.

    • Tambra

      Don’t give these guys any idea.

    • Son.

    • Somebody really needs to combine all that data across all the platforms. So you can find that 1 or 2 or 3…. special booties. I suppose it won’t be too long before that happens.

    • Medium Meech

      In the pirate sense or the literal?

      • Kas

        Gold doubloons

      • Twitter gonna have you buying lingerie for women you’ll never see

        • Tambra

          • Talking bout my friend not me

            • Tambra

              Ok… Catfish?

              • sometimes she just fine and you want her to have nice things.

                • Tambra

                  Aite. I hear you bro.

                • Kas

                  Fine people need stuff too.

                  • like pie.

                  • L8Comer

                    I sure do

                    • Kas

                      Fine people have to prove they are fine with fake pictures. We’ll wait.

                    • L8Comer

                      Fine people don’t have to do shyt other than preserve our segsy

                    • Kas

                      You certainly display the attitude of a fine person. No pictures necessary.

                    • L8Comer

                      Lolol, takes one to know one eh?

                    • Kas

                      I wouldn’t know but your approach is reminiscent of many women who have turned me down for dates.

                    • L8Comer

                      Lol that’s interesting

                    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

                      Lol@kas. savage but true.

                • L8Comer

                  ?????? did I mention my birthday just passed lol? I just entered your preferred decade

                  • lol happy birthday love.

                  • Kas

                    What decade are you in?

                    • L8Comer


                  • Tambra

                    Happy belated birthday dearie

                    • L8Comer

                      Thanks Tambra :)

                  • Kas

                    Happy Birthday!

                • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

                  Nah son…the game don’t go that way last I heard. lol.

                  But hey…if ain’t trickin’ if…you know.

            • No doubt in my mind.
              **used car salesman finger gun thingy**

              • Blueberry01

                Wait…with the eye wink and the clicking noise in his mouth? LOL!

        • That would be instagram

          • Tambra

            Is there a story behind that?

            • Sheeiiiit. I wish.

              • Tambra

                Rats!* kicks stone*

        • Medium Meech

          I think I’ll stay away then.

          • Tambra

            No control?

            • Medium Meech

              I’m too innocent and trusting, someone would take advantage.

              • Tambra


                • Medium Meech

                  Seriously, people tell me I’m too good and pure for this world all the time. Some online girl would take advantage and use me for my body.

                  • Tambra

                    Aite golden child

                    • Medium Meech

                      Namiste… Off Twitter ’cause I’m more than just an option.

                    • L8Comer

                      Glad you value yourself

                    • Blueberry01

                      Preach that self worth, MM!

                  • L8Comer

                    Quel horror

                    • Tambra

                      You would like to think so.

              • L8Comer


        • Now THAT’S funny.

    • miss t-lee

      If used correctly, of course.

    • All booty
      aint good booty.

    • CheGueverraWitBlingOn

      The internet in general is booty manna.

  • QueenRaven23

    I’m not on Twitter, but I look at it a lot. I wasn’t committed to tweeting enough. I’ll stick to posting everything on IG and looking at Bomani Jones’ Twitter. But it is SOMETIMES, a good way to learn about others and yourself.

  • Now for an earnest response: Twitter has actually helped draw me further and further away from feminism. Not an ideological or moral sense because I still very much have feminist personal/political stances and beliefs that I’ll stand by until the day I die. I’ve just gone further and further away from that implication because I’m not a woman and there is nothing useful I could particularly add to feminist conversations. Moreover I’m not sure centering myself on feminism as man is useful at all because everything is fundamentally reactionary. There can’t be a developed sense-of-self as a man fixating on feminism (my Simone de Beauvoir bias and all).

    Twitter has honestly pushed me away from a lot of men too because men are emotionally exhausting.

  • I’m not a Twitter head. Yes, I’ve met some nice people from it. And the Tweet Storms are nice. The problem is that everyone is one Savage level 11 at all times, and unless someone is particularly even keeled, discussions turn into battle royals in fifteen minutes. (And I’ll always regret the half hour of my life I spent arguing with a pr0n star about STD testing policy.)

    Twitter is good in doses, and for following major events. Otherwise, I’d rather do Facebook and Tumblr.

    • Todd you are very often on savage level as well. About 70% of your responses on here end with “soo….ask me about my p*nis.”

      • Tambra


      • Didn’t I tell you that I was a Savage? F*ck a White Horse and a carriage?! LOL I’m just living up to Miss Fenty’s example. LOL

    • L8Comer

      Blacktwitter is a delight

    • BmoreLikeLA

      I need to unfollow a bunch of people on tumblr. Everyone is too young and argumentative, trying to serve tea. And I’m tired of the great Black divide that runs my feed.

  • I have a FB acct. that I never use., and I’m not on any thing else regularly enough but VSB. Besides, more breaking news pops off here than it does on CNN or MSNBC a lot of the times, lol.
    Thanks Obama.

More Like This