July 17, 2020
Consider your audience.
So, far be it from me to take what little joy some of us might still possess, but at some point, yesterday, I saw that a friend had shared a satirical article. I’m not going to link to it, but it involved a human-sized hamster ball. Which was funny. The part that terrified me to the depths of my bones, was that about half the commenters seemed to be taking the article seriously. It is possible that the humor on that thread was dry and dramatic, and that I am guilty of underestimating my fellow humans.
Of course, I’ve seen lots of satire taken seriously over the years, so it’s hard to be optimistic. I feel ambiguous about what point I should be making here. I certainly don’t want to discourage people from posting or sharing whatever they want to, especially if it’s funny. If it’s something that makes a good point, we all need to hear it, to discuss it. If it’s something misguided, let there be debate. If it is outright and intentionally despicable, at least the rest of us know what we’re dealing with.
Apparently, many people don’t recognize satire reliably enough for us to be sure it isn’t being taken seriously. Since I don’t remember enough details about my personal experiences to reliably point you to examples, I’m sharing a study done by the Neiman Foundation. Unfortunately, reading it offered validation, but not reassurance.
My friend’s post just sparked, or perhaps reignited, a general worry that even something that is mis-informational in jest could trigger change in an unappealing direction. I have no definitive conclusion here. I enjoy satire, and I know many others who do too. For myself, I think it would be best to consider who is going to see what I share. I may be bonding much more tightly with my privacy settings in the near future.