If there is any way to waste time on the internet, it is to find a source of easily accessible, quick clips of comedy. Reading longer articles is laborious, and watching long videos can be shameful, but the promise of just one more funny clip is a time vacuum. The advent of the gif has made this type of comedy omnipresent. Some jokes take precision and timing, but a gif is like a one-liner: easy to follow and no set up required.
Alex Diebold wins bronze in the Olympics but gold in precision and timing.
Gifs can be taken at face value, however, when taken out of their original joke and thrust into a new one, the effect can morph from slapstick to satire. My favorite website for this type of comedy is whatshouldwecallme.tumblr.com, where thousands of pages of such images exist. For example, the editor took a clip from an already funny show, Arrested Development, and applied it to a real life situation: people awkwardly trying to say words from another language. The post is given the caption
“When someone pronounces a non-English word with an accent”
“When I thought I had a snack saved but then I remember I already ate it”
In the case of the Chris Pine gif, there is nothing inherently funny about longingly staring off into the distance followed by some heavy contemplation. Combine it with a few words detailing a situation most people have faced, and you have satirized that situation. The gifs are exaggerations, but possibly the way we really feel. I always feel silly when I try to pronounce Les Miserables (on the many, many occasions that this has happened) because I know how it really should be pronounced, yet I feel awkward trying to fumble my way through a language I never learned. Even when it is a word in a foreign language that I do know, the switch in pronunciations for one or two words is unsettling. I usually end up taking the easy way out with Les Mis, but then I feel like a coward. So when I hear another person try to pronounce it with a French accent, it catches my ear. I may not have the reaction of Toby in the clip above, but seeing the clip makes me remember the awkwardness of those situations. I laugh because it is such a childish way to react, and I love it. Whatshouldwecallme fulfills the role of satire in that it is a humorous way to criticize ourselves.
The effectiveness of gifs, and satire in general, is hugely indebted to the internet. The world is connected like never before, people have access to all kinds of information, and with the age of social media, individuals are expected to share parts of their lives with the online community. I find it funny that some people do not quite understand that what you put on the internet is accessible by almost anyone, and we see people posting pictures of themselves committing crimes on Facebook. In a New York Times article written by Noam Cohen, he states “People from all walks of life — hairdressers, chefs, politicians — use [twitter] to blast out every thought and professional accomplishment to their followers.” Not only is there greater access to satire because of the internet, but more people can produce satire. It is no longer left to those who work for newspapers, magazines, or those who host TV shows. For example, the people behind whatshouldwecallme are two girls who became friends in college. That’s it. They wanted a way to share inside jokes with each other, and it turned into a popular website for people looking for a quick laugh.
I think that the explosion of available satire due to technology is showing a shift in the way news is handled. I think it is much easier to deal with a situation through the use of comedy, which allows the news to be more accessible. If enough interest is piqued by a certain story, then the viewer has the ability to perform more research. Satire can be a nice way of appealing to more people. Fortunately, with so much access to information, those who know how to look for credible sources are open to a huge opportunity for learning. Unfortunately, the ease with which articles can be produced, and the difficulty accessing the background and credibility of posters, allows for a greater chance of stumbling upon bad information. I do not think these changes are representative of trends in intelligence. Those who are curious and willing to put in extra work will be paid off well, while those who are cherry picking debates that establish their beliefs may well have been able to do the same thing before technology. Technology is just another tool to more efficiently access what we need.