Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifying: Communication and Cultural Performance on “Black Twitter”

Florini, Sarah
Television & New Media

This article explores the use of the Black American cultural tradition of “signifyin’” as a means of performing racial identity online. In the United States, race is deeply tied to corporeal signifiers. But, in social media, the body can be obscured or even imitated (e.g., by a deceptive avatar). Without reliable corporeal signifiers of racial difference readily apparent, Black users often perform their identities through displays of cultural competence and knowledge. The linguistic practice of “signifyin’,” which deploys figurative language, indirectness, doubleness, and wordplay as a means of conveying multiple layers of meaning, serves as a powerful resource for the performance of Black cultural identity on Twitter.