A case of double mistaken identity involving not one, not two, but three Will Smiths created an uproar on Twitter. The culprit? A lowercase letter “i” and uppercase letter “L,” coupled with simultaneous uses of serif and sans serif fonts. Let’s get jiggy wit it, and solve this MIB-style.
On Friday, March 23, the Twitter account, @ReaIWillSmith, tweeted out the following:
The thing is, that Twitter account is not the real Will Smith. It has not been verified by Twitter, and the Twitter bio associated with it plainly states that the account is a parody. In case you missed it, a primer on Trayvon Martin and the de-flouring of Kim Kardashian.
That didn’t stop this tweet from spreading rapidly on Twitter. What transpired next adds our next Will Smith into the fold. You are keeping count, aren’tt you? We’re at two (parody account and the real Will Smith, you know the one behind the hit record, Big Willy Style and actor).
Here is where typography comes into play. What you can’t tell from the above tweet is that the Twitter handle - @ReaIWillSmith - has no letter “L”s in it. What appears to be an lowercase “L” is actually an uppercase “i.” However, the lack of serif in the font used by Twitter to display usernames (@username) and names (displayed above the username) makes it appear as “Real Will Smith.” In act.uality, it is @ReaiWiiiSmith.
This confused people on Twitter who saw this screenshot being sent around:
Instead of retweeting the link to the screenshot, some individuals decided to manually type the quote and attribute it as a retweet to Will Smith. However, when people went to type in the Twitter handle - Real Will Smith, they used lowercase “L”s, which attributed the tweet to Will Smith (@realwillsmith), a white male in who lives in Nashville, instead of @ReaiWiiiSmith, the parody account.
Some called out the error.
Others were in denial, and even when confronted with the possibility that the tweet was not native to Will Smith, the actor. In fact, they were okay with the assumption the tweet originated from a white male in Nashville and not Will Smith, the actor, because they want to believe the message. The meme has grown legs and is ready to walk on its own. It didn’t need Will Smith, the actor, attached to it anymore.
While some people associated the parody account (@ReaiWiiiSmith) with Will Smith, the actor.
In case, you were wondering how @RealWillSmith handled his new found fame:
He eventually let people know that he wasn’t the Will Smith they thought they were linking their tweet to.
This is the second incident involving a celebrity, a parody Twitter account and Trayvon Martin in the last few days. Will Ferrell, who does not have a Twitter account was recently the victim of a fake Twitter account (@RealFerrellWill) promising to donate money to the non-existent Trayvon Martin Foundation, even fooling media outlets. Twitter has since suspended the account.
In both cases, the Twitter usernames both used ‘real,’ in addition to the full name of the celebrity. Perhaps, the use of the word ‘real’ gives some a sense of validation and trust that they were interacting with the real enchilada.
Even celebrities were fooled. While P.Diddy (@iamdiddy) didn’t link to the parody Will Ferrell tweet, he did link to an account (@WeLoveTrayvon) that promised a RT was an exchange for signing a petition. The We Love Trayvon Twitter account has since been suspended.
However, have you ever tried searching for P.Diddy on Twitter? Nomenclature changs aside (Sean Puffy Combs, Puff Daddy, P.Diddy, etc.). He has a Twitter verified account under @iamdiddy, but his bio only lists ‘KING COMBS!’, and the name above his @iamdiddy. username lists ‘iamdiddy.’ His account is not optimized for search under even P.Diddy. I had to google P.Diddy Twitter account to track him down, while a Twitter search led me to several parody accounts. As you know, Twitter verified accounts haven’t been the most reliable this year.
Has Twitter turned into the modern game of telephone? Where the message continuously dilutes as it’s being RT’d, MT’d and attributed by using ‘via?’ How much responsibility do we have as citizens of Twitter to correct a RT we find in error? Do celebrities hold an even greater responsibility to double-check what they’re retweeting since their reach is far greater? P.Diddy, for example, has 5.1 million followers on Twitter. The rules of telephone reward the active listener. How active is our listening these days?