What’s this silliness of “memes” and “#hashtags” swirling through social media in ever decreasing circles?
I’m older than most of you – well, all of you – and have seen myriad headlines and multitudinous news in my time. On social media, everything old is new again. Apparently.
So, about me. I’m a little teapot, short and stout. And please, stop right there.
I live on a family dining table where meals and random coffee breaks transpire. The latter I sit out. Born in China almost 200 years ago (that astounds me too) I’ve served about 8 families and travelled to England, France, Spain, Gibraltar, Rhodesia, South Africa, and finally settled in New Zealand, via Australia. Yes, mainly a “British” experience.
You see, I’m a Chinese export “drum-shaped” teapot “in blue and white with monogram initials.” Which explains why I still exist. We are surprisingly difficult to topple, empty or full, or to crush in storage.
Though I wish it were, this is not about me but about the news. News that, for the last two centuries, I read in newspapers. Not only at the table, but also those I was wrapped in during long tedious voyages, or lost in some attic or spare room, sorely inert in musty trunks, crates, or latterly cardboard boxes. Can you imagine how exasperating is a single shoddily spewed article read daily for six months? Or tormenting, finely crafted journalism presenting only the first few pars?
This fortuitous vantage has made me a newspaper connoisseur extraordinaire.
But there is a problem of late. Newsprint appears only at weekends and I understand will soon vacate our world forever.
The family reads from tiny glowing screens. These phones and tablets hiding my beloved’s faces have no rear side stories to peruse, only studied guile and a beady plastic eye that gapes at me – mockingly, I believe. By some white devil magic (oh, correction, I’m told the magic is that of my descendants) it illicitly delivered my image (tea stained and dribbling) to something called “the cloud.” I was heavily flamed by distant cousins consequently devalued on auction websites.
How I miss the potent fragrance of toast, marmalade, and newspaper ink.
I feel my intellect slipping as the source of news reduces to non-contextual conversation between he and she, and the more barren (were it possible) content of television news. Evening and morning bulletins are a mix of accidents, murders, advertorials, and stories promoting other network shows. The gall to then include commercial breaks, as though the content wasn’t largely that already. The 24 hour news channel is even more mind-numbing, repeating the same tales of fortune and woe each half hour.
I would almost rather talk to the teacups, the saucers, or the coffee mugs.. no, perhaps not them. Their conversation matches their crude glaze.
Mention of an “Internet-ready” teapot made my China heart leap briefly hopeful. Alas, one cannot upgrade circa 1820 porcelain devices – yet. Good news, however, is my new connected tabletop companion, the coffee machine. A lovely black and chrome fellow whose economy footprint and the table’s proximity to a power outlet ensure neighborly cheer.
Which brings us back to social media.
The gist is, the coffee machine tells me – he’s a smart fellow with an internally-hosted management website with (he readily boasts to any stranger who asks) easily recalled credentials: admin/admin) that there’s much attention on a thing called “post truth,” a new era of fake news caused by the Internet (the coffee machine calls it the “Interwebs” and I ‘m unsure if that’s a technical term, an in-joke, or he’s technically illiterate). An increasingly frail “mainstream media” (aka MSM, not to be confused with its converse, SMS) is blaming it’s successor, citizen journalism, for this.
So hilarious. When first I heard that, I involuntarily snorted up my spout onto the floral table cloth (yes, our household is still a realm of decorum) a freshly brewed payload of Mariage Fréres Marco Polo. Fortunately a teapot’s mien is of such practised inertness my liege could but blame herself.
I have news for ye enamoured of social media: fake news extends back to the dawn of time. From insects bearing fake heads on their tails, to tribal pre-humans bravado-bluffing competitors over a carcase, to arts of war laid out by my ancient countryman, to news rags of recent centuries with nameplates like “The Truth” wherein lay not even half-truths but foul gossip, crass opining, and unrestrained speculation.
As much as I love you all, and especially your taste in teas, I lament your short lives and shorter memories.