The Internet is not the world, though it’s easy to forget when it’s all that stands between you and workday boredom. But the web is more than just distraction; for many, it’s our primary source of news, entertainment, social interaction, and pictures of kitties. It’s also a fickle beast with a short memory and even shorter attention span, collectively clicking over to the next meme-of-the-moment before that viral video you just opened has even finished loading. Even the most robust RSS feed can’t capture all the bits of news, humor, and Internet ephemera that go zipping by on their way to virtual obscurity. The A.V. Club is here to help sort it all out with Trending Topics, which looks back at the web week that was and rounds up what the Internet was talking about while you were busy with real life.
The Internet commented on The Social Network’s status
The biggest web-spawned movie since The Net hit theaters last weekend, and the dependably self-referential Intertubes have been flush with Facebook/The Social Network chitchat ever since. Despite the film’s almost universal acclaim, bloggers have found plenty of fodder for critical thinkpieces: Slate has been fact-checking the hell out of The Social Network, dissecting the liberties the movie takes regarding the Facebook creation myth and its depiction of Harvard. Vulture followed suit, delving into the real culture of “final clubs” vs. what’s seen in the movie. The Daily Beast brings in the author of a new book on Facebook to compare the movie’s depiction of the story’s main players to their real-life counterparts, on the heels of a similar piece from a month ago. All lead to the same groundbreaking conclusion: Factual liberties were taken in the name of good filmmaking. Luckily, everyone who’s been misrepresented by The Social Network has giant piles of money with which to dry their tears.
For a more meta take on The Social Network, there’s Slate’s “The Facebook Movie Facebook Feed,” which tells the story of the film’s creation through the best medium imaginable: Facebook wall posts. This storytelling method has been used to humorous effect before—see Facebook Hamlet and Facebook Genesis—but never has it been so thematically appropriate.
Others are taking a more sociological angle on the film, particularly its lack of strong female characters. Both Jezebel and The Daily Beast—whose The Social Network coverage borders on obsessive—delved into the movie’s portrayal of women, or the lack thereof. Whether you think this absence is intentional, mere oversight, or just a consequence of the story—there are very few women in tech, after all—it’s undeniable that The Social Network flunks the Bechdel Test. Then again, so do a lot of films.
Meanwhile, while some people were freaking out about a semi-fictional account of events that happened seven years ago, Facebook marched into the future this week with another redesign and new features that will inspire everyone to complain and create “I hate the new Facebook” groups until they realize that Facebook owns their souls so they might as well just go along with the new regime. On Wednesday, Mark Zuckerberg unveiled three new Facebook features that will surely revolutionize the way we use this revolutionary tool to revolutionize social interaction. More specifically, you can now 1) download all your information—photos, messages, etc.—into a single file to store on your computer; 2) easily access all your application and group permissions via the new Dashboard; and 3) sort people into groups and share information with only them, instead of all of your friends, which keeps you from having to inform Grandma that you got totally wasted and yakked in the bushes last night, brah.
Pretty neat, but the Winklevoss twins totally probably thought of it first. Oh well, maybe they can get back at Mark Zuckerberg by buying his old Facemash.com domain, which went up for sale via auction this week. They can definitely afford it: As of this writing, it’s going for $15,000, with a Buy Now price of $125,000.
Surf around long enough, and you’re eventually going to run into it, one of the most fundamental critiques the Internet can throw at you: FAKE! The fast pace and frequently context-free nature of web reporting means that information that’s incomplete, altered, or flat-out false can get disseminated faster than you can say “fact-check.” Even the most respected outlets get taken from time to time. It’s getting easier to spot blatant phonies, what with our ever-increasing awareness of Photoshopping and the advent of verified Twitter accounts. But virtual verisimilitude is still a tricky proposition, as evidenced by some examples from this week:
• If you’ve ever eaten a hot dog or a McNugget, you’ve probably already mastered the art of not thinking too hard about where your processed meatstuffs come from. The Internet made it a little harder to do that this week, thanks to the wide distribution of this photo:
It seems the picture originated here, where it was displayed along with the following text:
Say hello to mechanically separated chicken. It’s what all fast-food chicken is made from—things like chicken nuggets and patties. Also, the processed frozen chicken in the stores is made from it.
Basically, the entire chicken is smashed and pressed through a sieve—bones, eyes, guts, and all. It comes out looking like this.
There’s more: because it’s crawling with bacteria, it will be washed with ammonia, soaked in it, actually. Then, because it tastes gross, it will be reflavored artificially. Then, because it is weirdly pink, it will be dyed with artificial color.
But, hey, at least it tastes good, right?
High five, America!
The “Mechanically Separated Chicken Meme” spread far and wide, usually with the accompanying text. Of course, no one knows where this photo came from, as it’s not credited on the original post anywhere. But the real problem is the information that accompanies it: Snopes has already gone to work on the rumor, pointing out that mechanically separated meat isn’t just ground-up bones, eyes, and guts, but, you know, separate from those things. The ammonia claim is similarly debunked. There’s even some contention about whether or not the mystery meat is even chicken. (Why is it so pink? Maybe it’s pork?) Then there’s the question of why this mysterious meat goo is being pumped into a cardboard box. The point is, this could be what goes into your chicken patty (but not your McNugget—those have been all white meat since 2003), but it could just as easily not.
• You know what people love? Charity work! You know what (sane, rational) people hate? Evil tabloid supervillain TMZ! Therefore it stands to reason that people will really hate seeing TMZ turn its taunting lens on a celebrity doing charity work. So when comedian/actress Charlyne Yi tweeted a YouTube video claiming TMZ had manipulated her charitable efforts for Oxfam, it predictably set off a raging wildfire of indignation:
It seems like an open-and-shut case of a horrible organization pulling a horrible prank on a well-meaning but naive celebrity. But Yi’s history—specifically her fabricated relationship with Michael Cera, which formed the backbone of the movie Paper Heart—and the fact that the original video was never posted on TMZ’s website have set some people’s “FAKE” detectors flashing, wondering if Yi was in on the stunt with TMZ to create a viral promotion for Oxfam. (No one was talking about—or even seemed aware of—the footage before Yi’s video response.) She’s denied these claims on her Twitter, saying the footage was aired on TV, and any reasonable person can see that if this were a viral promotion for Oxfam, it’s as ill-conceived and executed as, well, Paper Heart. Regardless of whether it shakes out as real or fake, though, it’s clear someone here, either TMZ or Yi, was acting in very poor taste. Oh well, hopefully Oxfam got some donations out of the whole debacle.
• Then again, just because something isn’t 100 percent legit doesn’t mean it can’t be entertaining. Did you catch that video of the homeless guy performing “Under Pressure” with two Kermit puppets? Pretty cool, right? Does knowing that the guy is not actually homeless make it any less cool? Nope!
Tumblr insta-blogs sprout up faster than desperate publishers can offer them book deals, capturing a moment in meme history before the next hybrid of ’80s nostalgia, weird foodstuffs, and adorable animals comes along. Catch these while they’re still relevant:
• It’s so exciting to watch a meme in the making: On Sunday, The Daily Mail posted this photo of Tiger Woods doffing a golf ball directly into the camera’s lens, but the ever-distractible Internet instead focused a few inches to the right of Woods, on the man who’s come to be known as “Smiling Cigar Guy.” And thus a photobomb meme was born, and like Sad Keanu and Sad Don Draper before him, he now has his own Tumblr.
• It’s October, which means summer’s officially long gone and the winter holidays are still a far-off bright spot on the horizon. Now’s a good time to remind yourself that as much as you’d love to be on some relaxing tropical vacation right now, you might be better off just sticking it out at home: Take a spin through Hatecation to remind yourself what you’re not missing.
Each week, Trending Topics provides a website that’s ideal for wasting company time or putting off that term paper. Enjoy!
Still jonesing for a vacation? Try this virtual trip to the South Pole, courtesy of Google Maps, which has infiltrated Antarctica. Now you can pan, scan, and zoom around to see everything the continent (well, a very small slice of it, at least) has to offer. Spoiler: It’s mostly penguins.
Play us out
A little visual web candy to end the week on a high note.
What do you think of when you think of Pac-Man? Exactly, Moleskine notebooks. Despite the ambiguous (read: nonexistent) relationship between the two products, Moleskine is celebrating Pac-Man’s 30th anniversary with special notebooks, stickers, and, most importantly, a whimsical stop-motion video.
Got a tip on a recent Internet trend? Send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.