If you've been online for any length of time, you'll have come across this phenomenon. A story is shared which is obviously humorous. Inevitably, some people treat it seriously.
I remember being a child and reading the satirical magazine "Private Eye" - I was young and couldn't easily differentiate between the news reporting and the humour. That lead to nothing more than internal embarrassment when I suddenly realised my mistake.
Today's audiences have it slightly easier. While you may never have heard of the "Borowitz Report", clicking through to the article makes it painfully obvious that this is from the funny-pages, don't you think?
Facebook doesn't make this particularly easy. There's no obvious marker to make it clear this is satire. Indeed, it looks like any other news story from a reputable publication. And that's part of the joy in humour. It should be believable enough.
But, gentle reader, not everyone is as clever as you or I. Whether it is forwarded chain emails, sensational retweets, or inane comments under Facebook posts - the world is awash with people who just don't get the joke.
(There's also the undignified spectacle of people posting deliberately inflammatory articles, knowing it will agitate their audience, then claiming the "obvious satire" defence when challenged. But I'll leave that for a different post.)
So what should we do? Should the Borowitz Report make sure all its headlines end with "(Joke!!)"? Should Facebook make humour and satire articles appear in a different colour? Should Twitter prevent people from commenting until they've read the article? Should we just ban humour because some people are unable to tell satire from reality?
Or should we just patiently explain the joke again and again and again?
Media literacy as a form of privilege
Social Media delights in giving us bite-sized chunks. The headline and an image - and then on to the next thing. Those of us with the luxury to spend our time deciphering an article, and conquering the shibboleth in-jokes, find it insufferable that others don't understand the nuance.