The year is 2031. You open your news app up on your phone to a short string of emojis, depicting a headline. No, it is not an Orwellian notion of newspeak. It is the regression of humankind back to the use of hieroglyphics to represent words and phrases.
The way we present and transmit information has transformed a great deal over the past decade, particularly over the last few years too with the rise of the emoji and apps like Snapchat. Either my family is a constant in this swirl of change or my mother is just vintage for forever prodding me to send thank you letters to my relatives in 2017, where even my 84 year old granddad is on our WhatsApp family group chat.
Social media, of course, has been the major phenomenon to embrace the amalgamation of conveying news stories with, well, stupidity.
With the Internet fast and furiously reacting to a shocking news story with memes and viral Tweets, humanity is either doomed for eternity or cleverly adapting to our world of constant interconnectivity.
Remarkably, this generation is quite frankly the first to be so immersed in politics and revolutionary ideas. And what better way for media outlets to interact and engage with teenagers and twenty year olds than with funny images? And to think it all started with that viral YouTube video of a guy singing about shoes and lolcats, which is well, pretty self-explanatory.
Memes can be completely inappropriate, particularly if they are deemed as ‘spicy’ or ‘creamy’. There are enough savage Facebook groups out there dedicated to sharing such monstrosities, even though I do laugh at pretty much of all of them, probably representative of my own debilitating self. Yet, there is more to the meme than dark humour.
Richard Dawkins was the first to coin the word ‘meme’, whose description is an idea which is spread from one person to another within a culture, while they physically reside in the brain. Memes are, therefore, the conveying of information. Of course, it would not be practicable to use memes as the first source of information, as things get lost in translation, particularly when being subjective concepts.
The dangerous twist of real and fake news is fuelled by such concepts, where objectivity is being falsely perceived in one person’s conception.
What with all of this ‘fake news’ debacle which has been completely thrown out of proportion, it is up to an individual to use a range of sources rather than one biased one anyway. Especially if that source of legit-I-promise facts is The Onion. Do we not understand sarcasm anymore?
Images and expressions get lost in translation, whereas the fluidity and eloquence of the English (or alternative) language is timeless. Words may come and go, such as ‘golly’, but you cannot achieve any more certainty than using precise language. I like the engagement between social media, mainly Twitter, and receiving the news, but there are always going to be flaws in how this information is presented. To articulate a complex news story in under 140 characters is pretty impressive, I must admit. Though, if you haven’t jumped on the 2016 bandwagon yet, download Quartz, an app allowing the news to be messaged to you.
However, such simplicity in these snappy, dramatic headlines is what leads far too many into treating the headline alone as the news story, which ends up shared among every other Facebook user’s profile with fearmongering comments abundant.
Clickbait has already been picked up by Facebook to resolve its prominence across its website, thankfully. Although, my issue isn’t with obviously fake articles that start with ‘You will NEVER believe…’ or ‘X did this, but when Y happens, I was SPEECHLESS’. My worry are exactly these farfetched names of genuine articles, especially by accounts like Lad Bible. If you’ve miraculously never heard of this website, good job. But, it initially began its life as a hub for ‘lads’ to read stories about t*ts and borderline rape culture, yet now becoming a really ambiguous means of sharing day-old memes, viral videos and things that are ‘deep’ which don’t really belong on the site.
Then again, what a way to direct 16-30 year olds about important issues than on a group perceived to be dedicated to lad culture, on the flipside. One example of one of their clickbait is this article. Now, read the title: Family of Woman Given One Week To Live Asks For Favour In Post. The favour is to simply “live your life to the absolute fullest”. How is this article-worthy? Why am I wasting characters ranting about this? I’m hungry, that’s why. But, my point being, that while compellingly worded stories grabs our attention, particularly of the naïve, they have the potential to be dangerous.
Obviously we don’t all need an in depth reminder of the fake news scandal around the US elections.
Ultimately, we are never again going to solely rely on printed newspapers for our news, what with the concerns about the environment and people not recycling paper, as well as the clear fact that politics and current affairs move incredibly quickly these days. So, it’s much easier to receive on demand notifications of what’s happening around us rather than wait a day for stories whose development hasn’t been fully scripted in a newspaper anyway.
On the contrary, I also hope the news retains some dignity. There is a certain limit to how far silly things like memes can go with the sincerity of the news. Of course, chat shows and panel shows are exempt from this, naturally.
I also hope that clickbait can be fully prevented, most probably from professional journalists who know how to craft a headline without misleading the public but still encapsulating some eagerness to know more.
Maybe all my desires will be rebutted in 2031, and we’ll actually get a daily meme messaged to us which somehow amalgamates all the relevant news stories represented as the 2013-equivalents of Pepe the Frog and doggos. Oh, who am I kidding, Pepe is always going to be around.