I have been told, by people who are in the know, that there’s this phenomenon out there called “social media.” Seriously, it’s a thing. Look it up. And I’m not talking about where you go to a movie theater and there are some black folk who yell back at the screen — don’t go in there girl!! That man with the hook hand ’bout to kill you and your boo!!!
So apparently social media is a way that folks (entertainers, politicians, athletes, mommy bloggers, etc.) can say whatever is on their mind (sometimes in 140 characters or less) and other people can read those words and feel validated, outraged or (mostly) bored.
The other day, for example, I found out what Lebron James thinks about the whole Manti T’eo scandal. He tweeted:
Man I don’t know all the facts or exactly what is going on but this Te’o story is bizarre and weird as hell!! #whodoyoubelieve
This was retweeted (i.e. the social media echo chamber) approximately 4,400 times as of this posting.
For those who haven’t been paying attention, the facts in this case are as follows — T’eo didn’t win the Heisman trophy. He started a Fantasy Girlfriend League. He didn’t break any laws but everyone is talking about him.
I am so happy we put global warming, immigration, gun safety, childhood obesity and job creation on hold to get to the bottom of this girlfriend hoax. That’s the sort of play the NFL’s replacement refs would have considered a “good call.”
On the bright side, all of my gay friends are super excited to know that having a beard is big news. I’m not saying Te’o is gay. I’m saying my gay friends think he’s gay. I don’t know or care about anyone’s sexual preferences. Or their sexual kinkiness. Unless they choose to post about it on social media. That sort of creeps me out.
In general, I would say that having instant access to people’s random thoughts is creepy and weird. With Twitter and Facebook you actually get instant access to all sort of useless information. And it’s free.
What’s better than that? Absolutely nothing. What’s worse? Absolutely nothing.
I am currently in New York doing stand-up. This past weekend I was performing at Gotham Comedy Club. At one point in the show I tell the audience how to find me on Twitter and Facebook. I post jokes daily. I love to laugh and love making people laugh. Not only do I post jokes, but I also get a lot of great jokes from my fans. It’s reciprocal and a lot of fun.
Unfortunately, jokes are serious business to some people. These people don’t care about your humorous intentions. It doesn’t matter if the person paid money to enjoy your sense of humor. It doesn’t matter if the person laughed at 99 percent of what you said. It only matters if that person gets offended.
After encouraging people to follow me on social media, I always give them the following disclaimer.
“I don’t give offense. You take offense. You don’t include me in the decision making process. I throw bitch in the air. You claim it as your own. I wasn’t talking to you bitch. I was just talking.”
Then I give a few examples of the kind of silly, not-to-be-taken-seriously things that I post. Then I tell a story about how I got in trouble for trying to make people laugh at a bad situation.
What happened next is amazing.
Twitter-user John, who goes by the handle @FuriousCStyles decided to take that story that I shared with the audience (the one where I got into trouble) and frame it as new hate speech (tastes like the original formula but more aspartame). He tweeted the following:
@TheOrlandoJones I’m about to RT his comments if you didn’t see them earlier. I was just made aware of them. #LNYHBT
With no context to draw from (since he was referencing something that happened in 2011 — if you have no idea what I am talking about ) I started getting death threats, including the always entertaining:
F-ck you, kill you, die nig*er die.
There were other greatest hits which I will spare you. Hard to argue with the irony. Moreover, it’s hard to miss the humor in the Twitter handle @FuriosuCStyles.
Furious Styles is a character made famous by the incredible talent of my very close friend and mentor Laurence Fishburne in the film Boyz n the Hood. One of my favorite exchanges from that film seems like the perfect response to John’s tweet.
Officer Coffey: Something wrong?
Furious Styles: Something wrong? Yeah. It’s just too bad you don’t know what it is… brother.
I’m always in awe of the generous reception I receive from audiences when I travel around the country doing stand-up. But I realize that some people may not think I’m funny. And those people may be offended by what I have to say (see my disclaimer above).
But context does matter.
As I write this I’m not especially concerned about the latest round of death threats I awoke to on Facebook and Twitter. I’m not interested in Manti T’eo and his imaginary girlfriend, or Lance Armstrong and his apology tour with Oprah (both things which have been commented on endlessly in my Twitter feed).
I’m disheartened by the distractions of silly things and the truly horrendous acts that are committed to harm other people. The death of hostages in Algeria. The assassination attempt on a politician in Bulgaria, a beautiful country where I spent many months last year filming my new movie Enemies Closer.
There’s violence and hate everywhere.
And even though there are people who come to my shows who may not always laugh at all my jokes, I’d wager that everyone who does pay money and shows up is, at heart, a good person. Even John a.k.a @FuriousCStyles.
His recent tweet, and the subsequent response, is at the heart of the social media dilemma.
And I guess that’s because the facts and social media are mortal enemies.
You can receive information instantly through social media. But the truth is not instant. It requires research, fact checking and context. That did not happen in the T’eo case.
Discovering the actual truth requires serious people to really sit down and weigh the facts.
But facts are tricky. They have nothing to do with what we believe. They have nothing to do with us.
In the end, I believe we need less tweeting, texting, status updating and hate mongering. We need more love.
That’s what my standup show is all about. My love for my fans. My love for my friends and family. My love for the world we all share. Even my love for racists.
And we need more laughter. And orgasms (even if they’re with your imaginary girlfriend). I am a strong advocate of laughing and orgasms. Not at the same time. When you’re having an orgasm or laughing you’re “don’t touch me… don’t touch me… that was soooo good.. seriously DON’T TOUCH ME RIGHT NOW” happy.
With more of the things we love in life, maybe we can put down our weapons, lower our voices and dig a little deeper for… the truth. And that might be difficult since it requires more effort than just blindly retweeting and reposting whatever the latest thing is that offends you.
So let’s all share a laugh. And after you wake up from that good sex nap, think before you tweet about it. Because that’s just creepy.