Your Saturday afternoon Globe critique

One of my favorite hobbies is picking on articles in which the Boston Globe strives to be culturally relevant by writing about Internet trends that the rest of us got over being excited about a while ago. C’mon, it’s fun!

Today’s article is about the culture of fail. The Globe trains its anthropological magnifying glass on the curious phenomena of, the Twitter Fail Whale and Fail Blog, trotting in some college students who have adopted “FML” into the real-life lexicon and psychologists who offer dime-store analysis on our obsession with failure and embarrassment. 

Maybe I’m being unfair, but this is just dull, and it feels like it was outdated before it was written. Granted, I am already familiar with FMyLife and Fail Blog, so this article did not tell me anything new. But to that point, who is the audience for this article? If it’s younger folks, then like me, they are probably already familiar with Fail Blog, FML and their ilk. If it’s older people… they probably don’t care. 

Sadly, I feel like I see these articles over and over again. The Globe pinpoints something popular online, sees that as an opportunity to connect with a desired demographic, and pens a painful article that makes the newspaper seem hopelessly out of the loop of mainstream online culture. The psychologists are always what really get me, as if websites like Fail Blog are indicative of some great shift in the psyche of the American Internet user that must be studied and explained. Naturally, in this article, they have no great insights. A self-deprecating sense of humor can be a sign of good self-esteem! Seeing humor in the everyday mishaps of life can be healthy! Breaking news!

According to the story’s subhead, “Web culture has become obsessed with our mistakes.” Really, though, I don’t think the “obsession” with failure, or even with being broadly confessional, is new — and those psychologists certainly didn’t convince me that it was. As the article itself points out, a lot of the things you see posted on Fail Blog, you could have conceivably seen on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” back in the day. It’s just more social now, more viral.

Maybe that’s part of the challenge the Globe faces. It’s like when your out of the loop friend comes around to breathlessly fill you in on news that you heard about a week ago. “Yeah, I already heard,” you say. “Tell me something I don’t know.” That’s how I felt after reading this article.


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