We hate gentrification, but we love new buildings. We watch each Covid-19 press conference like it’s a new episode of WandaVision. We think South End is “the Florida of Charlotte.” We’ve announced the death of Panthers mascot Sir Purr at least a dozen times. And we have an unhealthy obsession with turning I-277 into a river.
We are Charlotte Twitter.
Twitter is the last social media platform that still asks for talent in exchange for social capital. On Instagram, you gain your likes from being attractive or rich, preferably both. On TikTok and YouTube, you owe most of your views to mysterious algorithms on social media gurus pretend to understand.
But on Twitter your content takes up more real estate than your face.
The tweets appear democratically based on when they were created, a natural order that feels almost nostalgic in the age of the algorithm. This makes Twitter uniquely buffered, although not totally immune, from advertisers, political disinformation, and influencer culture.
Charlotte’s sphere of Twitterers includes foodies, journalists, news anchors, PR and marketing professionals, city council members, professional athletes, business owners, and even an aspiring United States senator in Jeff Jackson. Despite this, Charlotte Twitter as a proper noun was used mainly derisively to refer to a type of semi-educated public forum, more informed than Facebook or Instagram, but also prone to hysterics.
That all changed in August when Katie Levans, the co-founder of Axios Charlotte (Charlotte Agenda) offhandedly mentioned she’d like to see I-277 turned into a river.
The ensuing furver saw jokes, high quality photoshops, legitimate debate on the ethics of rerouting the Catawba, and digital shouting matches.
Charlotte Twitter has since been the launching pad for a variety of major discussions in this city. This includes CMPD’s kettling of peaceful protesters, debates over single family zoning, a viral guerilla marketing campaign involving mysterious 77s, and providing vital information on where and when to get a Covid-19 vaccine.
The community is reaching a sort of event horizon where they no longer just comment on the news: they make the news. Legitimate news outlets regularly cite Charlotte Twitter as the source and inspiration for their reporting.
If you find that concerning, I don’t entirely disagree with you.
There’s a risk our media scene will become increasingly insular as journalists source the city’s mood from an extremely small sample size.
For example, an April tweet from Hopin Brand’s marketing director Scotty Kent received 662 likes and 98 retweets. This looks huge on Charlotte Twitter, which includes many sports anchors, journalists, and news reporters. But 662 people represent only 0.07% of Charlotte’s population, less than one tenth of one percent.
Still, there is much to be gained from the democratization provided by Charlotte Twitter.
Whereas traditional media still struggles in proportionately representing women, Charlotte’s Twitterverse leans toward women when highlighting entrepreneurs, anchors, and professionals.
Black women and other women of color in particular carve a sizable space on the platform, although the numbers are difficult to quantify.
How do we maintain the decentralization of news and information that Charlotte Twitter provides without falling into the common local media trap of self-referential coverage, where Big Stories are covered because they’re Big Stories, and the reason we know they’re Big Stories is because we covered them?
One idea is to use discussions on Charlotte Twitter as a way to invite larger groups into the conversation. Report on the discussion, but don’t editorialize the tone. Allow TV viewers, print readers, and those on other mediums to learn about the discussion in hopes of sparking similar conversions within their own spaces.
The only thing for sure is that Charlotte Twitter will continue picking through the follicles of our city with a fine-tooth, including debating its own importance.
A recent tweet from the account CLT Development asked users to fill in the blank: Charlotte Twitter is _______.
Answers ranged from world class to embarrassing, from high on itself to empty inside. Perhaps the best answer was from a user who believes Charlotte Twitter is just like Charlotte itself. “Still having an identity crisis.”