Web Hostess Live: The latest from the Web

Aug 21, 2014

Join in at 2 p.m. when we shall discuss all of the Internet.

Good Afternoon, everybody. Thanks for stopping by. We'll start at 2.

This week, Facebook announced it would begin marking satirical articles that appear in your newsfeed with the label "satire."

To determine whether this is good or bad, we have to weigh the relative insidiousness of two competing forces.

On the one side: labeling fake news as fake news is a way to stop the spread of misinformation -- the righteously misplaced indignation that occurs when, say, a congressman thinks that an Onion story on an "Abortionplex" is a real thing. If we easily know what is satire, the world gets a little smarter.

Or does it?

On the other side: labeling something as satire completely destroys the point of the satire. It's no longer sly. It's a big goofy billboard. It's assuming that the reading public lacks enough reading comprehension to tell fact from fiction. Labeling something as satire makes us...dumber?


Or discuss other things: 

Sometimes I use the lists feature on Facebook, because I want certain posts to only be seen by closer friends/family, or that Buzzfeed article I find amusing might offend my grandmother, etc. Well, my MIL realized she couldn't see some of my posts, and in response, she unfriended and blocked me. Is that an overreaction? Was I wrong to hide posts from her? I feel her blocking/unfriending was immature and extreme, but my husband thinks she was just doing to me what I did to her.

Hoo boy. How did she find out she was missing your posts? I can't imagine paying close enough attention to anyone else's Facebook feed that I would notice I was missing something.


What you did and what she did are not the same thing. And unless the posts you hid from her talked about what a terrible witch you thought she was, hers was a huge overreaction.

If you want to be the bigger person, you could reach out with a little more of an explanation: "MIL, I love having everyone on Facebook, but just like there are some things Husband and I would share with you that we wouldn't share with friends, there are some inside jokes I have with friends that I think would be boring or inappropriate to share with other people. I certainly didn't mean to offend you."


FWIW, I'm guessing your MIL just doesn't have a lot of exposure to being online, and hasn't quite figured out the nuances. She sees this incident like you're the popular girl shutting her out of a schoolyard circle. You see this incident like a different reflection of the real world: People have separate groups of friends and family, and they behave differently around them.

a couple of thoughts on the icebucket thing...1) Since it sounds like it's either icebucket or $100, are we just watching a lot of people get out of donating? I know it's caused a big influx in donations anyway but that part has always seemed a little odd to me. 2) This is going to sound dumb but once something gains this much momentum, and you see it all over your feed, should you feel a little miffed when no one nominates YOU? I kinda feel like it's a big popularity contest going on all around me and not including me. (Although I think I'd rather just do the $100 in the end).

Though the challenge started as "donate $100 or pour this ice water on your head," it's since morphed into "donate $100, and also pour ice water on your head."

See: George W. Bush's response to the challenge, in which he whips out a checkbook but then gets doused anyway.

What I find interesting is how the ice-dumping started as the sucker's alternative, and has now become a badge of honor. When President Obama announced he would not be pouring water, and would instead be writing a check, I saw several posts chastising him for being "chicken" and unwilling to really act when it mattered. (He did act. He wrote the check. The most important thing is to write the check, guys.) 

Unfortunately, a large part of the reading public does lack enough reading comprehension to tell fact from fiction. Maybe this is like training wheels for the gullible.

Have we always been this bad at this? I don't know enough about the history of satire to tell for sure -- whether we're getting more gullible, or whether we've always been this gullible, but only now with the Internet can we really tell. (There is that old story about people listening to a radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" and thinking the country really had been invaded by aliens. Though that was sci fi, not satire).

How is Facebook going to determine if something I post is satirical?? To me, anything from a religious zealot is "satirical." What algorithm have the FB overlords concocted for this one?

Certain sites, like The Onion and The Onion's sister site, Clickhole, will get automatic distinctions. (Speaking of Clickhole -- it's a sendup of Buzzfeed and its ilk, and if you haven't visited, I really can't recommend it enough).

i work with someone who's always passing along my comments as his and when i call him on it, he's just cc superiors like i'm the issue but it's him, what do i do?

It sounds like all of the "calling him on it" that you're doing is on email? Do I have that right? Can you start with an in-person conversation that says, "Hey, I know you're doing this, knock it off?"


Or, simpler solution: Can you stop making comments to him to begin with? It's not totally clear why he's the one who gets to pass off your ideas as his own. Why isn't there some mechanism for you to share your own ideas? 

Oh, and for the person who was feeling left out of the ALS challenge: I'm sure it would only take a strategically-placed "Ha ha, nobody has challenged me" before you received three or four challenges in the space of a few minutes.

Can I start a campaign to get Facebook to label "Manipulative Schlock That has Nothing to Do With the Misleading Headline?" That will make it even easier to skip those links.

"You won't BELIEVE why you clicked on this link to begin with."

Certainly it's an overreaction, but I'm wondering whether it is out of character for her. Is she generally nosy or oversharing? Or does she just not understand boundaries on line?

Actually, I first typed out a sentence that said something like, "I find it hard to believe this is the first time she's ever been a bit of a drama queen."


But then I deleted it. Because, in fact, I have encountered people -- usually older -- who are lovely in real life, and completely understand the rules and mores of interaction there. But they are completely flummoxed by the way something is done online, and they become totally nuts.

Or take the passive aggressive route and start spouting bad ideas.

...that too...

My company's internet buffer is blocking Clickhole. Not sure what this says about either the site or my company, but there it is....

Tragedy. Get a new company.

Can we just stop, please? I have nothing against raising awareness of semi-obscure diseases, but this is just getting annoying. The "hey-look-at-me-I'm-a-really-caring-person" nature of the videos (do we really need screencaps of your online donation as part of the Facebook post?) is enough to turn me off, but then add the peer-pressure call-out factor in naming "friends" who now have to partake, and, geez, I'm just over it. Look, I care about your disease, and about finding a cure for it, but as someone who's lost 2 immediate family members to cancer, maybe that's where I choose to spend my charity resources (both time & money), and frankly, your attempts to guilt me into prioritizing your disease over others is starting to fall within the realm of behaviour that some of these same people would label "bullying" under other circumstances. And yes, I understand that this opinion labels me as the guy who, in olden times, would get locked in the stocks and pelted with rotten fruit, but criminy, it really needed to be said....

It has been said, by a lot of people, for just the reasons you bring up.


I think the ice bucket challenge is about to end on its own -- we're reaching maximum overload -- which seems like about the right lifespan for a well-intentioned viral meme.

Frankly, it's never bothered me. ALS is a terrible disease whose funding had been cut. Breast cancer has its Pink campaign, prostate awareness has Mustache November. I don't think we ever become *worse* people by becoming aware of the struggles of others, whether or not we ultimately choose to donate to their causes.

Noticed that as well. When I sent out a Snopes warning about a Robin Williams suicide video being a virus, my old PE coach responded with a long lecture about how "we need to let his poor family grieve in peace."


Why stop at satire? Why not add "Unsupported/Undocumented" for unsourced assertions, or "Glurge" for weepy heartstring-pulling, or "Urban Legend" for such, or "Retread" for decades old stories being circulated as new?

I love  the idea of "UNSUPPORTED" being attached to files, as another way of saying, "Hey, guys, I'd like you to read this but just FYI I'm pulling it out of my Cllickhole."

What would minimum overload be?

You know, just one Guardian of the Galaxy instead of the whole cast.

I've found the best way to deal with my elders on FB is to immediately add them to my "old folks" list. My default privacy settings keep that list from seeing my daily posts and I occasionally throw them a bone when I'm traveling or doing something otherwise exciting. They never know that I post tons of other stuff. My mother prefers not knowing what I'm up to, it keeps the right wingers from arguing with me, and keeps my high school band teacher from knowing I'm a godless heathen. Win win win.

Except it sounds like this is exactly what the OP did, but got into trouble for when the MIL found out she was on the old folks list.

Does it really? I have never heard of that. (I almost typed something about being aware of the prostates of myself and others but decided that was TMI.) But to the OP, you're hardly alone. I don't have a strong social media presence so haven't been hit with a challenge...but if I had, I would have replied with an unapologetic no. I feel very bad for people with ALS, and their families, and I've even donated to ALS causes in the past. That's not where I choose to focus my charitable efforts, though. Fortunately, I think just about everyone I know would be pretty willing to accept that particular boundary with a minimum of drama.

And I've seen plenty of people get into the spirit of giving by saying, "I'm accepting the ice bucket challenge [COMMENCE ICE POURING] but rather than donate money to ALS, a worthy cause, I'm going to donate to Charity X, which is near and dear to my heart."

Everyone wins: A good cause gets money, ALS still gets visibility, and you don't look like a Scrooge.

(By the way, sorry for the gaps here, guys -- I've gotten kicked off the Internet three times in the course of this chat and keep losing answers).

I share anything I want to with everyone. If you don't get it, are annoyed by it, are offended, whatever, go ahead and block me.Goodness knows, I've blocked a few feeds myself.

Well, but it sounds like you don't care who reads any of your posts and it sounds like the original poster does care...so this solution will not work for her.

I think since internet access is ever increasing (especially among younger people since the Gates Foundation got computers into 99% of public schools) there are many people online now who historically wouldn't have interacted with print media much once they were out of school. Written satire has historically only been available to people with higher education and now it's available to almost everyone. It's like access to unicycle-riding suddenly became available to 100% of the public and now all of a sudden you see people crashing unicycles all over the place.

I love this analogy, thanks.

I love @SavedYouAClick on twitter. Love, love, LOVE.

Posting, thanks!

Yes. Cf. the public uproar at Swift's "A Modest Proposal". Unfortunately, people, writ large, are literalists....

True, except that Swift really did want us to eat babies though, right?

I think it is great that a bad disease is raising funds. But it is yet another example of a disease having good marketing so it gets money. People are not really looking at th e best place for their money they are just playing slong. Did not do the challenge. Donated to another organization.

Um, not really. The ice bucket challenge is ALS's good marketing, and but that's very recent. Until last month, it did not have buckets of money pouring in. 

She found out when another family member, who could see it, mentioned one of my posts to her. It was a completely neutral post, related to our home. I've never really thought she was a drama queen, and she is moderately tech savvy. When you block someone BTW, they can see that you liked or commented on something in the counter (for example, 2 likes, 1 comment) but you cannot see who liked it or see the comment. And that's how I figured out she blocked me!

It sounds like this is out of character enough for her that it's worth a peacemaking overture on your part, if you're so inclined.

(Even though you were right, you were right, and we all here support you for being right.)

Ever notice that any internet fad or new meme always brings out the "This is stupid," "Can't believe you guys like this," ""More serious things going on in the world," etc. type of detractors?

Unavoidable in a world where one person's personal passion is another person's Facebook feed clutter.

At what point can we start labeling ALS Icebucket challenge videpos as satire?

Well, performance art, at least.

It's funny to see the Swift piece mentioned, because that's most people's only "formal" exposure to satire in a classroom setting ("Class, meet satire. Satire, class."), and much as I respect Swift, it struck me even when I WAS in school as such a terrible first introduction to use. To really UNDERSTAND satire - what it is, what it does - you need to see it in the form of something mocking an issue that you hold close to your heart right now. When it's "impoverished Irish in the 1720s," most American students in 2014 end up thinking of satire as yet another generic English-class literary tool like "metaphor" or "understatement." It's particularly ridiculous to use the Swift essay as the go-to example when we live in such a golden age of satire - The Onion, The Colbert Report, etc.

True -- and I hope most English teachers today make use of our modern satire-rich environment. (And then back it up with Jonathan Swift).

I once saw a truly facepalm-inspiring post that was followed up with "Careful there, you don't want to accidentally eat any Irish babies." Which I still treasure.

Beautiful. I'm co-opting it myself.

The former National now Cleveland Indian, Zach Walters. Better than Chris Kluwe. Heck, one of the best anything on Twitter.

My initial reaction is to indignantly tell you that nobody, nowhere is better than Chris Kluwe. But I'll give Zach Walters a try.

Not to mention the thousands of gallons of wasted water when some parts of the country are seeing their worst drought in decades...

...You could just to a teeny tiny bucket of ice...like one cube...

If someone is foolish enough to quote a story from The Onion or similar, they deserve all the humiliation they get.

I'll never forget the first time someone explained the Weekly World News to me as a kid -- until then I thought if it was in a newspaper, it had to be a true story. (Turns out Elvis was dead after all).

Okay, that was my fourth time of being kicked off, and I think this Panera has a personal vendetta for me.

I'm signing off now. Next week I'll be back in DC, and my summer of crazy travel and patchwork chat solutions will be over. See you then!

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Monica Hesse
Monica Hesse is a staff writer for the Post Style section. She frequently writes about culture, the Web and the intersection of the two.

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