I’ve got a pet peeve and it surfaced today. It’s not that people post stupid fake memes, although that, too. Stupid bothers me. Fake bothers me more. Especially if I can’t tell it’s a fake. It’s sort of an uncanny valley thing. If you’re talking to someone non-human, you would rather know it. (Just watched ‘Get Out’ by the way. Fantastic movie but I’m not going to say anything about it. See it.) See it.
Anyway, I’m used to stupid fake memes. They come up every day. It’s how people react to them that bothers me. Today, a friend of mine posted a meme.
Let me make clear that this is an intelligent person with whom I agree more than 50% of the time. It was a short video of a couple of shoplifters who foil a more serious armed robbery with a skateboard and sophisticated teamwork. After a short back and forth with a couple of people about whether it was fake or not, it was conclusively proven that it was.
In defense of the site that produced the video, they had clearly labeled it as fiction (I guess. It comes from a site that posts ‘fake memes’ quite openly, at any rate.) But the people who reposted it just didn’t bother to include that. It’s the internet, and it happens. This is what anarchy looks like.
But the original poster, when faced with proof that the meme was not real (as he had thought it was, and I wasn’t sure) did not say “Whoops, my bad, I’ll take it down forthwith” nor did he just take it down forthwith and maybe send a private message to whoever sent it to him pointing out its complete lack of veracity. Those would have been appropriate responses. He wrote(as so many do, which is my pet peeve) “It may be fake, but it’s still funny.”
I don’t think so. The transition between our old, person to person communication culture was sometimes slow and unfulfilling, but the mass communication of the internet, while promising us infinite connectedness and knowledge, has become a maze of misinformation, a noisy casino of bells and whistles, a swamp of ignorance and distraction that sucks us further in at every step.
If we react to the first hint of bullshit by immediately scrubbing it from our screens, we still have a chance of turning it all to positive dialogue. But if we don’t, then we don’t.