Anatomy of a failed joke, or has Nicholas Carr been proved right?

I posted the following on twitter earlier today in response to a tweet from BBC 5 live. For those not familiar with twitter RT is retweet – repeating the terms of another user’s post.

 Anyone tell me how that link works? RT @bbc5live: @ColinGPaterson asks Nicholas Carr: Is the internet making us stupid?

I naively thought that posting that question in the context of that original post would be possibly a little funny – using a comedic technique to imply that being on the internet I was stupid and consequently had no idea how links worked thereby proving Carr’s hypothesis. But simultaneously disproving it by indicating that I was clever enough to make a joke about being stupid on the internet.

I received a reply from 5live:

@loveandgarbage It links to the chapter point on iplayer to listen. The link shortening’s done thru

This causes me a temporary dilemma. Either this is a witty commentary on my earlier tweet – replying in a particularly stupid way to thereby amusingly prove Carr’s hypothesis for the purposes of comic effect. Or an over-earnest person on the other end is concerned that I do not know how links work and is trying to give me a good technical answer to the question.

Dear reader, what would you do?

Do you assume earnestness (it is someone from an official BBC feed after all)? Or assume irony and devastating satirical wit.

I swither.

I ponder.

I worry.



I reply:

@bbc5live Sorry, it was a joke about the internet making people stupid… which clearly didn’t work as I’ve had to explain it. oops

Then I panic. This is awful. What if I have given an over-earnest reply to someone that was being witty, while at the same time implying that I thought (on at least one level) that he or she is stupid. What do I do?

I hedge.

@bbc5live And now I’m realising that your reply is probably satirical.

But that’s worse. Because if it wasn’t satirical I’ve now accused the person of being stupid twice and as they are the technical person operating the 5live feed I am immediately proving carr’s hypothesis, which my original tweet was intended to refute in a witty way by pretending to be too stupid to understand what it meant.

I’ve had no reply. I therefore have no indication whether the person from 5 live is a wit or stupid, or perchance somewhere in between.

I don’t think I’ll sleep tonight.

About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
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