I finally read Farhad Manjoo’s much-and-well-maligned “How black people use Twitter” essay. Until I read it, Instant Vintage’s spoofs of the brown Twitter bird and Danielle Belton’s “Things That Are Not Surprising: Black People Use Twitter” were plenty entertaining enough.
When I read the actual essay, though, I thought, “eh, I expected worse.” It actually reminded me a little of Steven Pinker’s take on The Shallows , where what you already know about the author and outlet just gives the writer very little wiggle room. In Pinker’s case, he uses straw men and can be flippant and condescending. With “How black people use Twitter,” it’s the convergence of “Slate doesn’t write about race well” and “Farhad Manjoo can be a superficial tech columnist.” Plus more, I’m sure. At any rate, those are the reasons I thought of, because those are the reasons I don’t regularly read Slate or Manjoo anymore.
That said, it is hilarious to read things like “In April, Edison Media Research released a survey which found that nearly one-quarter of people on Twitter are African-American; the firm noted this was approximately double the percentage of African-Americans in the current U.S. population” and “Are other identifiable groups starting similar kinds of hashtags, but it’s only those initiated by African-Americans that are hitting the trending topics list?” and transfer this to something other than Twitter. “Why can’t white or Asian people get on trending topics? Something about this doesn’t seem right.”
It reminds me of Ross Douthat’s disproportional argument in his “Roots of White Anxiety” op-ed, and the weird sentiment you sometimes encounter where people will say things like, “you can’t get into an Ivy League school unless you’re a minority.”