5/20/2005

In So Many Words.

Dumbing Down: Writing for the Internet.

In one of my very first posts I mentioned that I had little fondness for the use of internet abbreviations. At best they are a feeble attempt to make oneself sound significant through usage of jargon familiar only to those in know; at worst it sounds like simple laziness. So what's the big deal. Why get so uptight about something as insignificant as that? Don't I have anything better to do then be some sort of elitist asshole coming across like everyone's worst nightmare of a grade school teacher? What real difference is using "prolly" instead of probably going to make in the world?

To be honest probably not much. On an individual basis its more pathetic then harmful. I can't help feeling sorry for those who believe they are obtaining some sort of status by using this shorthand, in fact if it gives them some shred of self-importance, no matter how misguided, then it's not even that bad. The problem is a little more serious when it comes to the issue of laziness. I'm going to try and wax philosophical here for a few seconds, and I'm not sure how successful I'll be, it's early, and I'm tired so we may all get lost, so hang on for a bumpy ride.

Language is the basis for thought. Without language we would not be able form or articulate complex thoughts. Words are the basis of language. The way in which we utilize words, string them together etc. form the basis for our means of communicating, thoughts, and emotions on a day to day basis. Visual artists are able to circumvent this through their talents, but they are unique in their ability, and usually apply those to universals, not mundanities. The more articulate we are the easier it is for us to express ourselves.

It only follows then that the simplification of language would result in the simplifying of thought. Continuous use of short forms and catch phrases result in the eventual loss of the ability to absorb or create complexities. Once this nadir is achieved responses becomes limited to a reaction to blunt stimuli. No longer capable of, or willing to, understand we turn to simple solutions. The easy answer, or the one that provides the least amount of effort on our part. That's where the problem starts.

It's hard enough as it is to communicate thoughts and emotions. We have our natural inhibitions and insecurities that get in the way, without diminishing our potential for talking to each other in this manner. People bemoan the fact that relationships don't seem to last nearly as long as they once did. If you talk to people who have been together for any length of time a common thread will appear, almost all of them say that talking to each other was what kept them together. If we have lost the ability to adequately express ourselves how in hell are we going to be able to talk to our partner. No wonder most marriages end after a short time. I bet most couples have never even had a decent conversation about anything more important then their clothes and what car they drive.

Attitude becomes another casualty. If thinking becomes a matter of always looking for the easy way, that's going to be reflected in people's approach to life. Striving to achieve a goal has been replaced by the desire for instant gratification. Instead of an appreciation for process the result has become all that matters, who cares the cost. The ensuing selfish behavior and callousness that accompanies this should come as no surprise. Our society is degenerating into a culture of single minded pursuit of individual material success with compassion and consideration falling by the wayside.

Ultimately though the worst fallout is what I refer to as the creation of the herd mentality. Manipulation is never easier when people surrender their ability to think. Whether ad agencies, politicians, or religious leaders there are always those willing to take advantage of this. Pulling simple emotional triggers like patriotism and family values only works when people don't question the logic behind such stratagems. It's far easier to listen to someone say this is good and that is bad, then to the person who says well it's neither and let me explain.... People don't want to have to make up their own minds. Say a nice catch phrase that they can latch onto and their hooked; wrap it up into an emotional response and their doubly yours.

Many of you may find this far fetched, but I'm not claiming that this is a conspiracy by any government to turn populations into sheep. But I do believe that the leaders of the world's powers are taking advantage of the circumstances in a big way. Why else would the Republicans constantly make disparaging comments about intellectuals, suggesting that there's something wrong with thinking. Politicians everywhere have learned to speak in catch phrases that mean nothing of substance, and by the time anyone figures it out the world's moved on to the next day and its forgotten.

Maybe I'm just a crank, and there's nothing wrong with people saying addy instead of address, but I look around every day and see more and more people acting like they don't think, or don't care, I hear the leader of the biggest military machine in the world unable to complete a sentence, I'm bombarded with advertising and so called entertainment that's aimed at eight year olds, and I've got to wonder. I don't think it's the cause of all problems or the root of all evil, that would be simplistic, but it sure is a symptom of a very ill society. Try this as an exercise, the next time you write anything on the internet use complete sentences and words, see how it feels, it really isn't that hard who knows you might even enjoy it.

cheers gypsyman

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