Are The Spill & Threads Apps New Homes For Black Internet Discourse?

Photo: Edward Berthelot/Getty Images.
If you’re Black and you’ve been tapped into Twitter since you could tweet via SMS, then you know that the platform today, now under the rule of controversial tech juggernaut Elon Musk, just isn’t the same. Black Twitter was once the primary meetup for our community to get anything it needed at any given time: a protest when social injustices reached fever pitch, a virtual election night watch party when Obama won in ‘12, an online roast session when Yahoo made that typo, and an indirect dating app. Those days were sweeter and undefeated. Using Twitter was, and arguably still is, a uniquely connective experience that moved at the lightning speed of your every thought. Nothing compares to when Rihanna’s off-the-cuff clapbacks were at their most savage, people pulled up to Twitter like a family cookout, and anyone could gain new followers-turned-family using friendly hashtags.
But in recent years, the conversation has taken a turn. Twitter is now littered with ads, calls to pay for previously free features, and an air of pretentiousness, causing some Black folx to become increasingly fatigued by Twitter’s negative vibe that breeds a fuckton of judgment rather than camaraderie. VIP tweeters who once had legacy blue checks are the loudest rejectors of Twitter’s new era now that any user can flaunt the status symbol, especially racist “blue-check bots.” With an aggressive amount of changes to the platform and the overall miserable tone of Twitter discourse, it begs the question: 
Where does the Black conversation, desperate to find a new online home, go from here?
New social apps Spill, created by two ex-Twitter employees, and Meta’s standalone competitor, Threads, are hoping to be the answer. Both emerged after Twitter temporarily limited the number of posts users could see in a day in early July. Their mission: to serve as a haven for people looking for a less hostile environment. To see if Spill (named after the common queer slang “spill the tea”) or Threads could dethrone Twitter as the most central space for Black conversation, I quickly signed up and attempted to settle into both over the last few weeks (Threads launched on July 5, 2023). 
Still in its invite-only beta era, Spill makes for a chill vibe even when joining on a chaotic news day like the affirmative action ruling. The conversation was brewing hilariously, as only Black people can make it, but the disappointing headline was more of a rumble than a roar. No doomscrolling necessary. In fact, my feed was much more overrun with funny memes, gifs, and videos to get a 90-character point across (the app defines itself as “a visual conversation at the speed of culture), giving the platform a “keep it real” but lighthearted energy. I learned pretty fast that Spill is a lot like Tumblr—very visually forward. But what truly sets Spill high up on the “yeah, you should join” list is its ethos. 
“If we could build a platform from the ground up that caters to these groups, these culture drivers, and then solve the core problems that they’re facing, that our community is facing more specifically, that would make for a better experience for everyone,” Spill co-founder Alphonzo “Phonz” Terrell told AfroTech.

A break from supercharged conversations and a pivot toward other interests and communities feels imperative to collective Black mental health and the health of the Black conversation. Neither Spill nor Threads capture the urgency quite like Twitter—and maybe that’s the true future of Black discourse online: a little peace.

Niki McGloster
Unlike many other social media apps out there, the specific culture drivers Spill promises to serve are Black and queer AF while keeping its doors open to all people (a mission that needed to be clarified in the Twitter streets). And believe it or not, the safety feels palpable. It’s a niche community, with most folx spilling positivity, cracking jokes, and committing to keeping harmful accounts at bay. Without question, Spill is a good resting place away from all the Twitter noise while still getting updates from Black Twitter faves like Huffington Post senior editor Phil Lewis and film director/writer Matthew Cherry. However, Spill’s hyperfocus on visuals plus their set of icons and lingo (“Spillionaires,” “Spillboard,” etc.) may deter former text-loving tweeters looking to flock to a familiar pasture with less of a learning curve. 
For those folx, enter Threads. 
While it’s a sibling to the photo-sharing app Instagram, Threads is text-based and unsurprisingly more similar to Twitter, which made it an easy go-to for those first few days after launch due to its familiarity. Unlike Spill, the visual quality bests its competition, and the conversation has better variety. Every feed is a brain dump mostly from celebrities, brands, and people you don’t follow. Real-time dialogue around high-profile court cases and awards shows would get obliterated by Threads’ current algo. But rumor has it that the more you like and comment, the more your feed will curate itself to your interest. That remains to be seen for some people.
But even if you’re interested in a super curated feed, Threads is a destination where cooler heads prevail. Proof of this is in Black celebs who notoriously hide from regular tweeting but, on Threads, are seemingly more willing to share and interact (see: H.E.R.) without bracing themselves for tense or defensive reactions. The ease and comfortability of conversation is by design, says Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri, who wrote that Threads isn’t for news and politics but for more “amazing communities” around interests we love like sports, music, fashion, beauty, entertainment, etc.
“​​The goal is to create a public square for communities on Instagram that never really embraced Twitter and for communities on Twitter (and other platforms) that are interested in a less angry place for conversations, but not all of Twitter…Politics and hard news are inevitably going to show up on Threads—they have on Instagram as well to some extent—but we're not going to do anything to encourage those verticals.”
Does that mean Twitter is out and Spill and Threads are in? TBH? TBD. 
Folx are copy-and-pasting their thoughts on every app now, which makes the Black conversation sometimes feel disjointed, confusing, and scattered. It’s like cookout-hopping on a Saturday and having the same conversation with different families all day, unlike Black Twitter’s very essence—one conversation with your people in one place. 
As much as uniting around one main topic made Black Twitter such a powerful community, it’s clear by the number of folx fleeing the bird app that Black internet discourse is dying to be in its soft era, in desperate need of more fulfilling exchanges. In the conversations occurring on both Spill and Threads, it’s clear Black people are exhausted with arguing over $200 dates, dinner with Jay-Z, and getting deeply defensive responses to their harmless opinions. A break from supercharged conversations and a pivot toward other interests and communities feels imperative to collective Black mental health and the health of the Black conversation. Neither Spill nor Threads capture the urgency quite like Twitter—and maybe that’s the true future of Black discourse online: a little peace.
There’s no way to stop the flow of craziness that can happen on any social media feed, but Spilll and Threads have seemingly found ways to at least turn the negativity down a few notches.
But if Black Twitter had a tagline, it would read: We created this. 
So no matter where we congregate next, even if it’s more spread out than before, we’ll set up shop and continue to drive the culture.

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