Earlier today I posted a sentence or two on Facebook about how annoying it was that so many social media users were devoid of a sense of humour. I didn’t really explain what I was getting at, but my post seemed, nevertheless, to spark a chord with some of my friends. Perhaps I can be forgiven for expanding on my theme.
I will start with an example which I did eventually give in a much later comment on my post but which won’t have been seen by more than two or three people. Here it is.
The Telegraph recently had a news story about a fifteen-year-old boy who was removed from a ‘plane at Gatwick because it was overbooked. His mother had seen him go through to departures. He telephoned her when he settled into his seat on the ‘plane (he was going to stay with other family members in France). Mother set off to catch her train home. Fortunately, she had not yet boarded her train when her son telephoned again to say that EasyJet (I think it was that airline) had removed him from the ‘plane because it was overbooked and a more deserving adult needed his seat. He didn’t have enough money to get home on his own, but that was all right because his mother was able to come to the rescue.
I scrolled down to the comments. There was a wonderful one from someone who was absolutely furious that anyone thought EasyJet to be in any way at fault. The boy was typical of the “snowflake” generation. He was pathetic to “run for Mummy”. It was his own fault he didn’t have enough money to get home on his own etc. etc. It did cross my mind that the author of all that nonsense may have written it as a joke. But, sadly, it was plain he meant every word.
Anyway, I couldn’t resist a one-line response. Something like this: “Excellent comment, but you forgot the bit about how he needed a damn good hiding.”
All was well for a while. I was pleased to see that my attempt at humour was getting more “likes” than the comment to which it was responding. But then things started to go wrong. A few comments appeared criticising me for taking such a harsh line. Why did the boy need a hiding etc. Eventually, no doubt because of complaints from humourless readers, the Telegraph decided to delete my comment as being offensive.
I suppose you could say that it was my own fault. I have been around long enough to realise that satire is frequently taken literally by many social media users. I should have resisted the temptation to make a joke. But it is still irritating when that sort of thing happens.
Then there is another kind of humour which is misunderstood. I will give another example.
A terribly nice Facebook friend of mine shared a video from the Independent’s website. It showed Jeremy Corbyn kindly helping a woman carry a pushchair down some stairs. I confess I didn’t think any serious political point was being made by my friend. I assumed she thought the video mildly amusing. This was my comment on her post: “Gosh, he must be Prime Minister immediately. Where was Mrs May? Conveniently not there is the answer. Thank goodness Mr Corbyn’s press secretary was there to capture the moment.” I soon realised my mistake. My friend was deeply offended. This was her reaction: “Bloke does nice thing. Sends Tories batshit. Lol.“. Another of her friends said this: “It must be the concept of doing something good while expecting nothing in return that so absolutely confuses the right-wingers. And when they’re confused, they tend to lash out.”
Of course, when one descends to having to explain a light-hearted comment, it all stops being light-hearted. But, never mind, here goes. First, and this will certainly astonish the second commenter, I, a nasty Tory voter, have often helped people carry pushchairs, heavy suitcases etc. up or down stairs. And, amazingly, despite my right-wing tendencies, I have never sought payment for my help. Neither would it ever have occurred to me that performing an everyday act of ordinary decency could ever be considered to be a political statement. I was amused that Mr Corbyn’s press secretary had thought otherwise and had decided to video his master’s actions in order to give the Independent a story. If the same thing had happened with Mrs May (and it easily could the way politicians advertise themselves these days), I would have been just as amused and I would have posted exactly the same type of comment in response.
Why did my delightful friend and her no doubt equally delightful pal take such umbrage at my comment? Did they really think that the fact that Mr Corbyn behaved decently to a woman who needed help with her pushchair somehow made him Prime Minister material? Did they honestly think only Socialists help women with their pushchairs? Or did they just think politics so desperately important that Mr Corbyn was off limit to light-hearted comments? I don’t know, but I am a little saddened that some people take life so seriously.