THE DEATH OF DECORUM: Has social media made us uncivilized?
By Kevin E.
Tuesday, January 24,
the last two weeks, I have watched two stories unfold in the media, especially
through social media, that have caused pause for me.
One was about Vivica A. Fox and her new dance troupe “Black Magic” and whether
she’d be taking them to “the gay clubs” to dance for men. The other about
whether Broadway legend Jennifer Holliday would be performing for the
newly-elected president at the 2017 Inauguration.
What caused such pause for me is that these women are both tried and true
sisters in the community, producing plays and running businesses, performing at
benefits and standing strong in adversity. And yet, the nanosecond that
the story hit the feeds and Facebook pages, these women were eviscerated by
communities that said that they loved them. Before there was clarity or
even questioning, voices screamed out that Vivica Fox’s show should be
cancelled and Jennifer Holliday would never work again. The level and
legion of hatred and ugliness that came at these two women flipped me out and
almost tripped me up. I am very active on social media and was instantly
shocked, having just seen Ms. Holliday’s triumphant return to Broadway with
“The Color Purple” and watching the hard work and personal investment that Ms.
Fox put into her show and her efforts. Yet, I erased “Vivica’s Black
Magic” from my TV lineup and listened as folks talked about how Holliday better
get a lot of money since her career would be done.
But in the midst of it all, I watched people on other people’s pages talking
down movies that those people said they really enjoyed while someone stopped by
to share that the opinion of the writer was wrong and without merit. I’ve
watched YouTube videos that blessed my soul and then noticed that there are 561
thumbs down on a performance that has millions of views and I wonder if there
is some element loose amongst us that it just uncivilized and that’s how they
get and glean their sense of worth.
All during his campaign, Trump live on Twitter, was railing against things that
he never actually even spoke about on camera, while people demean women and
people of other races and religions behind the cloak of social media
sanctuary. We’ve become a culture where people say the ugliest things and
jump to the darkest conclusions without hearing the other side or even any
other voices. We’ve seen so many celebrities “killed” on social media,
even when they were at home alive and well, and reduced our tributes to those
who had actually died to “likes” and passing thoughts. Where is our
heart, our compassion for each other? What’s going on in our lifetime
where people want to “bless you” and “curse you” at the same time, which is
exactly what’s happening when you said SHARE THIS and God will bless you AND
DON’T BREAK THE CHAIN!
Have we lost our sense of proper decorum and the ways of civility that
allow us to agree to disagree without cussing up a blue streak on someone’s
page that we would never do in their face? Or is it that we
have become so disconnected that we are happy to destroy lives and
reputations through screens and keyboards because we don’t have to look each
other in the face anymore? What’s wrong with us?
I watched as Vivica sat down on a syndicated entertainment show and before she
addressed anything, she apologized for the perception of her comments,
reminding her fans that she’s always been a supporter of all people and that
she meant no offense and if any was received, she asked for forgiveness.
Jennifer said that she was going to perform “for the people” at a concert on
the Mall but when the people said that they wanted more from their Original
Dreamgirl, she reconsidered and withdrew her performance and her talent because
she wanted to support those who were standing up against the principles and
pandering of the president, who had made some decisions in his new
administration and some statements in his efforts to get to the highest office
in the land, that were disingenuous and disrespectful. They both took the
time to speak their truths in ways that allowed me to remember that we all
respond in the fire of the moment, as Ms. Fox did on that radio show, or we
make decisions thinking they are good moves for our finances or our future, as
Ms. Holliday did. Lord knows there are many people who have created
children and emptied out their bank accounts for what they thought was the best
love decision they could make.
There, but by the grace of God and social media not watching, go many of us who
remember the time that we made a choice we thought was the best in that
moment. Sometimes, we were given the space to rectify or remedy those
decisions, and so we’ve had to live with forever.
Social media is a beautiful tool through which I have been able to share ideas
and web-series, sell books and support small businesses I might never have
known or noticed. But sometimes, we’ve got to check ourselves to insure
that we haven’t gotten so full and unfocused because now we have the power to
produce our own media, that we’ve forgotten how to be social and civil and kind
to one another.
I know, it’s the times in which we live. But we can’t wonder why our
grandchildren are acting so entitled and why their friends are being so
disrespectful when we are liking spiteful comments and watching hateful videos
of people fighting and the world around us unravels. Is social media to
blame or are we simply, to paraphrase Oprah Winfrey, seeing magnified versions
of who we really are?
So after I watched Vivica’s statement, I put “Vivica’s Black Magic” back on my
TV lineup because I want the sister to have a hit and then I got on Twitter and
thanked her for clarifying her statements and for her words. She then
instantly liked and retweeted it and a few other things. I smiled and
went to my music collection and listened to Jennifer sing “Come Sunday” and I
was reminded that she’s one of the greatest talents to ever sing. And I
remembered what it felt like to engage in civilized discourse again. And
then I picked up the phone to call a friend with whom I had been texting all
day. It was text to come out from behind the keyboard and reconnect
because while the texts and the sounds of the communication let me know that we
were being consistent in our communication, ain’t nothing like the real thing.
Taylor is an author, TV producer and empowerment speaker who tours the United
States. He is alsos the senior pastor of Unity Fellowship Church NewArk in
Newark, NJ. Taylor has written 7 books and novels and his autobiography
(NEVER TOO MUCH: this is my story of big words, big dreams and an audacious big
life) chronicling his childhood in the projects, coming out as gay and as a
person of faith and his conversations with icons like Tina Turner, Stevie
Wonder and his personal friend and sister Natalie Cole, will be out this
Spring. Taylor is a father and grandfather and can be reached through his