COMMENT: Coming out of warp speed in cyberspace
A joke has always been a double-edged sword, so to speak. While we all love to laugh, in fact it’s even good for our health, we rarely want the joke to be on us. So when April Fool’s day comes around, lots of people spend the day worried about bearing the brunt of the joke – being the fool.
This year, as in the past three years, the Sentinel ran yet another controversial joke it seems. In the past I have had politicians and organizational directors participate in our pranks that have usually met the goal of fooling some readers.
Our first kick at the can took on our deer issue promising a controversial cull because of violent does attacking people in City Park. Mayor Brian Taylor received a few calls on that one. Then we tackled the TransCanada trail claiming that paving is the wave of the future and it would be complete within the year. Well, I have to say while the parks manager laughed at first, after a few phone calls he had had enough.
This year we chose to try a very overt tactic – picking on Chihuahuas and Pomeranians in a rant about how they were to be included in the new dog bylaw as vicious breeds. I tagged in a couple of comments about setting cougars loose in town to eat feral cats, and allowing hunting to control their population.
A hot topic it seems as some people chose to re-post just a few sentences of the story claiming it was true.
Really? You couldn’t see the irony of setting a cougar lose in town? Or did the picture of Les Johnson up a tree with a crazed Chihuahua at its base not give you a hint that perhaps this was just a joke?
Oh, right, you didn’t actually read the story. You saw a short blurb and didn’t really look at the full picture.
Unfortunately, that seems to be a trend in our day and age of open information sharing on the internet. First off, we don’t even read what we see. We are trying so hard to get through so much information in any given moment we don’t seem to see, or at least absorb the details of what is in front of us.
How many of you (and I’m right up there with you) don’t fully read an email before responding? How many times have you had an email reply to questions you have asked that misses one or two of the questions? It’s not because we didn’t read it, it’s because we are moving so fast that we honestly don’t deal with the information that we saw, if we took the time to look in the first place.
So the fact that some readers took a piece of the April Fool’s story on dogs and cats, reposted it on Facebook where it went viral to their friends and suggested it was true should not come as a shock to me, I guess.
But what was shocking was the allegation that this joke, this fiction, led people in the community to take action. I still do not know if the allegation is true, but I do know taking a piece of information out of context, purporting it to be fact, could also have triggered action.
We need to take time to think through the repercussions of our actions. Kept in context, perhaps people would have laughed at the thought of a cat cull. Out of context, interpretation sets in. And in our time of incredibly fast information sharing that can be a dangerous thing.
The Internet can be a good tool, or it can spread misinformation – it really depends on how we handle it all.
From taking the time to read an email thoroughly to sharing information in an accurate, respectful way we can all benefit from information at the speed of light. Done badly, we can all end up regretting what would otherwise have been a fun moment.
To those out there that read and enjoyed a chuckle on the day of jokes, I’m happy to have been successful in “fooling” you – at least until the end of the story – and look forward to penning some witty quips in the future.
And to all readers: remember to slow down and be safe out there in cyberspace!