Newsfeed is an odd word for the stuff I see daily, because it isn’t really news, unless you think the doings of cats are vital; it doesn’t really feed you unless you consider the deeds of cats to be satisfying. Imagine, though, turning on the television to see swooping into view a swirling globe and three huge letters in bright, bold colour, the kind infants adore, the blare of French horns, the chatter of drums and the deep voice of an announcer telling you: You’re Watching CNN. Cat News Network. Our top stories tonight: panic as kitten discovers her reflection; amber alert issued for missing calico; part four of our investigative series on the comfort of cardboard boxes. And in weather, a thunderstorm warning—cats advised to seek shelter under bed.
Yet this is news of a sort, the kind that gets thousands of hits, hundreds of thousands of shares, millions of likes. Share if you love your mom. If you can see the number 5, you’re a genius. Share if you hate cancer. This man found a door at the end of his garden…when he opened it, wow! Share if you love dogs/cats/bunnies/redheads/God.
Doesn’t the word viral mean contagious? Not a thing you should desire.
But it is.
Even the bad stuff.
Especially the bad stuff.
We love the bad stuff.
A man walks into a school with a semi-automatic weapon. Hashtag EndGunViolenceNow. A woman, hands in the air, not holding a gun, or a knife, or even a stone, killed by the men who serve and protect. Hashtag BlackLivesMatter. A drowned brown boy found on a beach. Hashtag KiyiyaVuranInsanlik, which is Turkish for humanity washed ashore
We take the clickbait and we like how it makes us feel.
We put French flag filters on our Facebook profile pictures and we hashtag JeSuisCharlie
We put rainbow flag filters on our Twitter profile pictures and we hashtag LoveWins and we hashtag prayforparis prayfororlando prayforsyria and prayforpeace.
Even though we don’t pray at all.
We say to ourselves: this is important I need to do this. What we mean is: people need to see me doing this. Now we can face the mirror and smile. We gather all our likes, these little yellow shocked faces, these tears, these pulsing red hearts and fold them into us, put them in a jar and screw a lid tightly on it and put it at the back of the cupboard behind the flour and the instant coffee and that tin of nutmeg we’ve never opened, like we’re getting ready for an impending disaster, an apocalypse of disinterest and it’s time to stock up on approval.
When what we really need is to visit the storehouse of love.