Smile Politely

Every Text Makes Me Cringe

ROTFL. I recently saw this in a PowerPoint presentation on effective business writing. At the time, the speaker was addressing how abbreviated language in emails can be turbid and indecipherable. I stared at ROTFL and tried to figure it out. My first guess was Ridiculously Obnoxious Tetchy Fat Lad. My second guess was Rustic Old Trash from Louisiana. My last guess was Really Old Tramp Feels Lovable. I was wrong about all of them. The speaker told her audience that it meant Rolling on the Floor Laughing. I then reacted by saying, “WTF?”

I am sorry, but I studied English in college and I appreciate the correct use of our language. I’m not perfect. I do make mistakes and you might even find me doing so in my writing, but at least I try to adhere to style guidelines. However, it is becoming more and more common to see abbreviated, text-like language in everyday writing and I think this is slowly killing me. I never thought that I would be killed by one of my pet peeves, but if I receive another email or text message with LOL in it, I might have an aneurysm.

What is happening to our language, to our writing and to our conversations? While our economy seems to be nose-diving into a recession, the same might be true for our brains. I am not sure who is to blame for this exactly, so if anyone out there knows who is responsible for the first text message, please let me know. I need to write them a letter explaining to them that they have created a black hole which is slowly pulling my brain apart.

I know that younger generations don’t seem to mind this type of communication. I have been to restaurants, sporting events and movies where families gather and this is what I see: the parents are talking (usually fighting about something meaningless) and the kids are tuning them out, locking themselves in their clandestine world full of text messages. Half the time I catch myself wondering if the kids are texting themselves about how childish their parents are, but that probably isn’t the case. Oh, what about bullies who now text message their threats? It just seems unnatural to me. I thought the point of being a bully was to confront passive people face to face. However, I can surmise that text messaging can really improve a bully’s efficiency. Example: if a bully doesn’t have the same class schedule as the person they want to beat up, they can easily send them a text like, “Hey, douche bag. I’m gonna kick the crap out of you. LOL.”

As for myself, I really can’t stand text messaging, but for some reason I feel that I have to have the capability on my phone, because some of my friends only text message. It annoys the piss out of me to be having a good conversation and then my pocket starts vibrating. I normally try to ignore the first buzz, but normally, within the next five minutes, my pocket buzzes five more times. Not that I have to, but I ordinarily break from my conversation to check the messages. Half of them make no sense to me, so I stare at my phone and I scream, “Just effing call me!”

Not only do I have this problem with my friends, but I have had them with ex-girlfriends as well. In the past year, I have seen a few people, but none of them have worked out. I am sure that my behavior had a lot to do with the failure of my relationships, but I know that text messaging didn’t help. Most of my ex-girlfriends texted me more than they called me and this truly bothered me. You can’t have a conversation with text messages, because you can’t hear voice inflection and you sure as hell can’t read a person’s body language. I never knew if my ex’s were joking around or if they were irritated about something. Then, when I tried to call them to discuss, they didn’t answer. Then, I would receive a text message with WTF in it. I don’t want to date anyone ever again who thinks that text messaging is more important than an actual conversation.

I know that there are some pros to text messaging, such as in an alert system, but I think the cons outweigh them. Frankly, I’m scared to think what our English language is going to look like in five to ten years. Will our presidents eventually do State of the Unions in an abbreviated fashion, possibly even through a text message, or will they continue to move us with eloquent speeches, crafted meticulously by talented speech writers? IDK. Maybe weddings will change too. Vows can easily be exchanged in text messages and when the marriage turns sour, why not pursue a divorce through a text message?

Maybe I’ve got it wrong. Perhaps I should give in, get myself a phone with a keyboard and never have a conversation again. I’m gonna think about it. In the meanwhile, TTYL.

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