Want to hear a joke?

It’s icy outside, so I’ve stayed in for the night. Ordinarily I don’t worry so much, but I’ve heard enough horror stories and had a hard enough time trying to drive up my steep, snowy driveway in the past 24 hours to have been convinced not to venture out. So of course, just like most of my 20-something counterparts, my night in saw me scrolling through my Facebook feed in search of something that might be interesting (no, that doesn’t include your individualized Facebook movie or that article detailing why you got engaged at 23). And as I wade through the fluff and the nonsense, lo and behold, there it is: nestled like a precious gem amongst grit and sand and dirt, an oasis in a desert devoid of substance, a headline shining like a beacon of hope to bored Facebook voyeurs and student debt sufferers alike. The arresting headline is preceded by a tentative, disbelieving “Is this real life?” from the friend who shared it, and as I read the title, I can understand her incredulity:

“Obama Announces Plan to Forgive All Student Loans”

Has there ever been a more captivating headline? Has ever a sequence of words stirred more hope, more joy, more ecstasy at the thought of freedom? Can you think of a sentence that holds more promise or guarantees such relief? What other words could sound sweeter to the ear of the average American in my generation?

But in today’s fast-paced world, I don’t give myself much time to contemplate the magic of the words that my eyes have just drifted over. Instead, perhaps drawn by my ever-growing cynicism, perhaps because the web address was already in the periphery of my vision on the tiny mobile screen, my gaze focuses almost immediately on the source of the article, a URL as ugly as the headline is beautiful:

dailycurrant.com

Ah, of course. It’s too good to be true; isn’t that always the case? It’s almost as disappointing as finding out that, no, going to college and getting a degree in what you love is NOT a guaranteed path to success, job security, and a prosperous, happy life. (What a joke that was, right?) The Daily Currant deals in similar jokes, the kind you can almost believe are real. Its satire has the same bite as the more-renowned Onion, but because it’s less well-known, its readers are more often fooled first and left with a bitter taste in their mouths later when they realize they’ve been had.

With a resigned sigh (I hate to be the bearer of bad news), I add the first new comment on my friend’s link.

“No,” I write, addressing the validity of the headline’s existence in real life. “It’s a satire site.” I add a sad face to show my solidarity, and for effect, because, damn, wouldn’t that have been great if it wasn’t just a joke? Touché, Daily Currant, you’ve won this round.

Notifications start rolling in, from other friends either pointing out the satire or lamenting it. The friend who shared the article now shares her moment of revelation, disappointed that “the tyranny” of student debt, as she calls it, isn’t over after all. A mutual friend is also feeling the weight of her debt chains: of course the headline isn’t real, she says, we’re going to be slaves to “the man” for the rest of our lives. Another friend of a friend tells us that, after seeing the same story on another person’s Facebook page, she cried tears of joy before realizing the sad truth. And as a final stamp on the subject, the last comment laments the fact that the student debt figures listed in the article ($1 trillion of student debt owed to the federal government, 40 million students affected, an average of $24,000 of debt per person, college tuition rising 600% since 1980) are in no way satirical, but just cold, hard facts.

All this student debt talk reminds me – my Sallie Mae payment was due yesterday. Whoops. Better go and correct that. And I should make a note to call FedLoan, too, about extending my economic hardship forbearance. There’s no way I’m going to be able to make my monthly payment while I’m still looking for a job. $675 a month? What a joke.

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