THE DEATH OF DECORUM:  Has social media made us uncivilized?

Over the last 2 weeks, I have watched 2 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 folk 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 bless 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 lived on Twitter, 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 and 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 that the problem: have we 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 webseries, 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 unraveling.  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.

About the Author
Kevin E. Taylor is an author, TV producer and empowerment speaker who tours the country and is 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 website

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