I am both disenchanted and wiped out from the Twitterverse. My physical and mental exhaustation is not Twitter’s alone nor is it large – post-job market, post-dissertation defense, and post-graduation, my body (particularly my lower back) is in deep recovery from successfully living and pursuing an academic life. I care for myself by being care-free: visiting friends or chatting with them on the phone, journaling, checking out and reading comic books, fiction, or non-academic non-fiction from my public library, going on dates, taking walks and exercising, and sleeping for how long I want and waking up whenever I want. I am restoring myself in pleasure and joy.
I have taken social media breaks before, and I was overdue for a Twitter break anyway. But in the context of all of these life-changes, I needed to step away from Twitter in particular. Unlike my (private) IG or Facebook, my Twitter has shifted from being a place to chat with my friends and laugh at internet jokes to being a profile of my academic digital self. As a graduate student, this was somewhat of a fraught space, ranging from peer surveillance (i.e. “are my colleagues judging me?”) to navigating the floods of job market anxiety and despair. But now that I am stepping into a new position, how I embody that space is even more fraught.
Or, at least, the Twitter space I temporarily left is fraught. Despite previously hearing about social media etiquette from senior academics, there is not a day on that site where the opposite doesn’t occur. Almost every week there is some scandal of “professors behaving badly” or punching down on folk lower in the academic hierarchy (i.e. contingent faculty, graduate students, undergraduate students, staff, etc). Twitter’s algorithms, especially when the feed isn’t set on “latest tweets,” encourages us to see mess that may be humorous or (increasingly) makes us angry. We are also living in a time of artificial precarity induced by systems that abdicate their responsibility to us, rising fascism, environmental collapse, a likely recession, (for those of us in the US) quotidian gun violence, and so on. We look at a digital mirror, which presents to us our Age of Anxiety and Paranoia. We feel intensely, and those who have the chainmail armor of seniority, status, and the cavalry to protect may be more at ease to punch down more often. My job transition sparks curiosity and reflection on how I want to show up as a professional, scholar, educator, and human in both the analog and digital. The State of the (Academic Twitter) World doesn’t.
“The Internet is a black woman, and we know this because we say we resent it, but we depend on it.”Namwali Serpell, “Black Hole” in the New York Review (Published on March 26, 2021)
I do log into Twitter occasionally to browse through my bookmarks (I am a Virgo Jupiter + rising), and I catch sights of my feed. I saw a tweet that was in response to a news story about Google firing a whistleblower who contends that the company’s AI may be sentient. The tweet, which I am paraphrasing, said that AIs would easily gain rights and reinforce Black folks a sub-human category. But when I read it, I thought, what is to say that there are no Black AIs right now in the present? Or that AI could not easily join/or is not currently in a similar category to Blackness in the West, expendable, popular, mishandled, and superficially celebrated? These are my fleeting, undeveloped thoughts, for which I am sure many Black digital humanists and specialists in AI ethics and development have already answered or are theorizing. I connect my Black femmehood in part to the site of the cyborg, replicant, clone. Where womanhood was alien and felt impossible, the Rachaels, the Rei Ayanamis, the Hotaru Tomoes, the Motoko Kusanagis of sci-fi and anime were comforts and possibilities to be. None of them were Black, but that is a failure of imagination, not of reality. I believe Black AI are from the future, and they are already here. See also,
🌙 Cassandra Osei, “Presumed Behemoth,” Doll Hospital Journal no. 3 (2016): 16 – 24.
🌙 Alexandra Thomas, “Black Millenial Femmehood: Qualeasha Wood,” Mousse 80 (May 30, 2022).
🌙 Jessica Marie Johnson and Kismet Nuñez, “Alter Egos and Infinite Literacies, Part III: How to Build a Real Gyrl in 3 Easy Steps,” the Black Scholar 45, no. 4 (2015): 47 – 61.
🌙 Janet Jackson, “Interlude: Online” (0:18) and “Empty” (4:32) on the Velvet Rope (1997).
🌙 mooncrisis, “Space Babe Styles” moodboard.