I believe that’s one of the sentiments behind the outrage in the following tweet:
How the hell are people so f’n stupid as to not realize this is sarcasm. https://t.co/VBZwatD0rj
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) June 28, 2018
The thing is, I think he’s wrong to feel this way. This guy is well-educate, reasonable, and smart. But if he believes that tweets like this are obvious, that lessens my opinion of him. I don’t doubt that to him his tweet is obviously sarcastic, but there are many situations where I think a tweet is obvious ironic or sarcastic, but others don’t; or, alternatively, I’m unsure if a tweet is ironic, but it’s obvious to others. This happens frequently enough, in my view, that one should conclude that expressions of sarcasm is frequently not obvious, and it’s unwise to assume that they are. Am I wrong or being pedantic? Are there times when any reasonable person would know a tweet is sarcastic? Sure, but I’d argue that’s not always easy to know. There are times when something seems obvious and apparently it’s not.
Here’s one thing that may be going on. In face-to-face conversations, people can misread sarcasm, but it’s rarer; judging whether a statement is sarcastic is a lot easier. In face-to-face discussions, we have non-verbal cues and generally the large context of the remark. On twitter, not only do you not have non-verbal cues, but you may not have any context of the tweet or much information about the tweeter. In my view, that dramatically increases the difficulty with distinguishing sarcasm from the person’s actual opinion.
People can use sarcasm and snark on twitter, but they shouldn’t be outraged when people fail to distinguish this from actual opinions.