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The Train

kbonds's picture

Kayla Bondi

The Train

With the birth of the internet, many cultural changes began, one of the most important being changes in social interaction due to the evolution of the english language. During the last ten years, social networking websites have revolutionized the way young people interact, and the internet has rapidly devolved the english language into a series of abbreviations. One of the most interesting and perhaps most culturally significant results of this is that teenagers and young adults communicate in a completely different way than their parents did twenty or thirty years ago. There are thousands of unspoken social rules for interacting on the internet that only 10-27 year olds seem to know about, which are creating a rift between the generations in the way they interact. There are many tracks that this new form of social interaction can go down, and it really all depends on how optimistic you are about this generations teaching abilities, because as of right now it is like a train pummeling down a track with no end in sight, but many options for where to go. As far as individual intentionality is concerned, many people from many generations have tried to resist the differences in social interaction, but everyone in our particular society is eventually sucked in, because everyone around them, everyone they are interacting with, has developed these new social cues and nuances. The only way to avoid it is to become completely disconnected.

What exactly are these social nuances, and how do those young folks interact in the internet? The hardest part about explaining is that there are so many different things. If we analyze one simple sentence, say, the start to a rather happy Facebook chat conversation, many of these nuances are visible: "Hay grrl HAYY :D".

If we analyze this one sentence, many different aspects of the new social interaction are visible. It may, to the unknowing onlooker, seem like a complete mess of elementary education babble, but there is really more to it than that. As a side note, there are many pessimistic anti-chat-speak individuals who will rant about how the world is coming to a fast, abbreviated, stupid end because of conversations like this, but they fail to understand to complexity of the exchange. The sentence "Hay grrl HAY :D" is loaded with nuances, especially because it is the introduction sentence of the encounter. "Hey girl hey" is a commonly used phrase, coined by a really ridiculous MTV show that no one ever saw but everyone heard about (another benefit of social networking). It is a generally happy exclamation used to greet someone so that they know to expect a good situation during the conversation. The use of "hay" instead of "hey" is a gesture to the pronunciation of the phrase, with long, drawn out "hey"s. The large happy face at the end of the sentence is merely an exclamation point with a face that says "I'm happy, I want you to also make this face, but if you can't talk right now it is ok, because I am really quite content." Capitalization of the final "HAYY" might come as a shock to those who think capitalization is a bad thing on the internet. It really means "I'm adding emphasis on the final HAYY because Facebook chat doesn't have italics, and in the phrase the emphasis is on the final hey anyway. And I might be shouting happily." Because this is the start of a conversation, it is very happy, very inviting, and very silly. Obviously, there is more than meets the eye to these seemingly simple social interactions.

I will admit that the last paragraph is a lot to digest, but it is merely there to emphasize the fact that there is a lot that the younger generation knows that most people over 30 have no clue about. the sad thing is, I could have written more on the dynamics of starting a conversation on Instant Messaging systems. There is a gigantic rift in knowledge from one generation to the next, and this could lead to big problems in the future. They way I see it, chat speak will never become a replacement for traditional English, but it may become a source for future disdain for my generation, as I know it is already becoming. It is true that there are more and more arguments for why we are destroying language and social interaction, but I believe that we aren't destroying it, we are changing it, and change is inevitable. The future could be terrible because of this; hordes of illiterate 40 year olds insisting on saying "lol" instead of laughing, babies not being taught how to spell correctly at home, lower national IQ, devolving brains, eventual distraction of all language and vocal cords becoming vestigial structures in the human body while everyone simply types out what they want to express. 

On the other hand, another cultural change is sparking on the horizon. With the invention of Skype (a video connection device that allows you to connect face to face in a video chat) more and more people are giving up on typing conversations and going to video conversations, in other words, speaking is becoming popular again. This is great example of how human laziness can actually be beneficial; it is easier to talk than to type. Technology like Skype, which plays on human laziness, is just one more step towards Star Wars like holographic video chatting. This new development will also lead to, if not an improvement of the English language use, at least a much ore distinct separation between every day communication and internet communication. Either way, this more optimistic view is the one I choose.