There seem to be few topics on social media today that can actually bring people together. Yet on Thursday, it was the reaction to a CNN report on the cost of groceries – specifically “milk” – that seemed to unify the masses.
It began with CNN’s morning anchor Brianna Keilar (@brikeilarcnn) tweeting a quote from an individual who was profiled in a segment on high grocery prices, “A gallon of milk was $1.99. Now it’s $2.79. When you buy 12 gallons a week times four weeks, that’s a lot of money.”
That would add up to an increase of just under $40 per month (while the total milk cost would be $133.92), a considerable amount in a family’s grocery budget. However, the reaction on Twitter focused on the quantity of the milk, and many questioned how the family in the CNN segment could ever consume 48 gallons of milk in a month’s time.
Writer Tony Posnanski (@tonyponsnanski) was among those who poked fun, writing, “If you’re going through 12 gallons of milk a week it’s time to invest in a mothef**king Cow.”
“What family drinks 12 gallons of milk a week? Guzzling that much animal fat, puss & mucus into your system must be causing long term damage,” warned radio personality Ibrahim Jamil “Ebro” Darden.
Sophie Vershbow, assistant director of social media at Random House, tweeted, “If nothing else, let’s all band together to agree that drinking a glass of milk is disgusting.”
Author Kurt Eichenwald also pondered the price quoted in the piece, and the need for so much milk, “Milk was last $1.99 forty years ago. So is what they are saying true? It depends on what your definition of ‘was’ is. And 12 gallons a week? Do they run an ice cream store?”
Others also questioned the economics of the report, and noted that milk prices have been high since at least 2018.
A variety of memes also made the rounds and poked fun at the report.
Such reactions highlight the way that social media almost used to be before it became so politicized.
“Social media, especially Twitter is nothing if not spectacular in its ability to make the mundane seem fascinating and something worthy to explore in such depth,” said brand marketing and social media pundit Scott Steinberg.
“This can be music, movies and other facets of pop culture from a celebrity’s new haircut to swimsuit or choice of red carpet outfit,” Steinberg added. “All of these have trended in the past, and today it is a discussion of processed dairy products.”
Social media also showed its ability to fact-check a news story in real time – in this case the quoted price of milk.
“This shows how you can crowd source almost anything for good and bad,” explained Steinberg. “In this case, several individuals shared they were quite knowledgeable on the cost of milk, and clearly did a better job than the fact-checkers.”
However, the ability for such real-time commentary can come with good and bad.
“You can get a lot more chatter that takes away from a topic,” said Steinberg. “In this case it was about the mundane, but you can get outright BS and bias even when it is very serious topic. More than anything, social media shows the ability for everyone to provide their comments from the peanut arena.”