Monday, January 27, 2014

"wut i think lolz"

By Michael F. Mercurio

During my foray into social media, I’ve often found that articulation seems to be looked down upon by a great majority.  Whenever someone attempts to use proper grammar on say…a YouTube comment section, said person is often accused of being condescending and/or elitist in some way.  I myself have experienced this when trying to contribute to discussions in various online forums.

What I can’t understand is, at what point did sounding intelligent become a negative attribute?

I have since forced myself to look long and hard in the mirror after being confronted with this accusation by a plethora of posters.  I don’t think I was being especially condescending to anyone, yet it still bothered me how many people seemed to feel this way.  I suppose it had a great deal to do with the fact that I liberally use words such as “plethora” in relatively insignificant threads.

Okay…yes.  I admit, I like to use more complicated words a lot.  Sometimes it’s not always appropriate to the situation.  Do I think it makes me sound smart?  Sure.  But is there really anything wrong with wanting to sound that way?  I certainly don’t consider myself some obnoxious narcissist who is in love with the smell of my own farts.  

If it were simply a case of the nerd being picked on by the jocks, that would be something I could ignore rather easily.  However, I feel this trend warrants valid concern.

First, I call it a trend, because that is precisely what it is by its own definition.  As a whole, the online community seems to be showing a tendency or movement in a particular direction, and it is not a positive one.

There are three aspects of online social interaction that feed off of each other, creating what I can only describe as an ever growing “Trinity of Idiocy.”

The first element of the Trinity is the innate anonymity of every individual.  Because I am a nerd who makes very bad tech puns, I will improperly call this element the “Subnet Mask.”  

I have always found this aspect to be a desirable feature of the internet.  It allows everyone a large degree of privacy and gives voice to those who wish to express themselves without fear of reprisal from others.  This comes with a caveat, however.  With such anonymity, people do not have to take any responsibility for the things they say.  A random twelve-year-old can unknowingly cause a maniacally depressed forty-year-old to commit suicide by posting a series of hurtful comments.  Does this mean the internet should be censored and the privacy of all its users should be annulled?  I’m forced to respond with a resounding no.  It is quite unfortunate that the forty-year-old did not have the sense enough to walk away from the computer and seek professional help, and just as unfortunate that the preteen didn’t get the proverbial belting to teach him not to act that way.  These things simply happen.

As the most insidious of explosions often require more than one ingredient however, the next element is the complete deconstruction of spoken language.  Referring to Orwell, I call it “Duckspeak.”

In particular, as someone who is desperately trying to learn to be a successful writer, this one irks me the most.  Even by itself, it is a trend that has a negative impact on each proceeding generation.  At the risk of sounding condescending, I personally feel that anyone who sends the message “how r u” sounds like a complete moron.  I realize that is very prejudice on my part, since I may not have any idea whatsoever what the person who sent such a message is actually like.  For all I know, they are a lot smarter than I am.  

I just can’t help it though.  I see everything that I was taught in school, drilled into me, yelled at for, graded on…and it’s as though the whole of society is taking what I was forced to learn and throwing it in the garbage.  I know that is a common attribute of “progress” – unlearning irrelevant data and replacing it with the relevant.  

But this…I don’t know.  Somehow it seems more like a sort of de-evolution.  Maybe I’m just getting old.  

Again, this element by itself could be seen by some people to be benign.  I myself am not such a person, but to each their own I suppose.  Which brings me to an interesting point.  There are now two separate camps:  Those who are pro-Duckspeak, and those who are anti-Duckspeak.  Those who are against it are separated even further by the socio-generational gap - a nice bit of friction we have now.

Finally, we come to the third element:  “The Mob.”

Once again, I must make an extremely generalized and condescending statement.  

Most individuals are probably down to earth and have varying degrees of intelligence.  Put a large group of those individuals in the same room together though, and every one of them becomes dumb as rocks.  

There.  I said it.  Sorry.

I suppose I should expand on “The Mob” a bit more.  The fact is, when a galvanizing opinion directs a large number of people to think in the exact same direction, the small details of the subject tend to become lost within the broad scope of the action.  People will often forget why they’re doing what they’re doing.  The original message becomes lost in a sea of extreme objective focus.

The best examples I can come up with are controversial subjects which would no doubt rub a lot of people the wrong way.  It is important to note however that I use them very loosely, mostly jokingly, and they should in no way be taken in a strict, literal sense.

Example 1.

     A.  “Eating undercooked pork will give you trichinosis!  Spread the word!” 

     Leads to…

     B. “Eating pork is an abomination!”

Example 2.

     A.  “Unprotected sex is making certain people sick!”

     Leads to…

     B. “Sex is bad!”

Example 3.
     A.  “Kill the witch!”

     Leads to…

     B.  “Yeah!  Kill the witch!”  “Totally!  Kill that witch!”  “Rabble rabble rabble!”

“The Mob” is probably the most familiar in everyday life.  All one has to do is turn on Judge Judy or Doctor Phil.  

Now, if the internet is meant to bring the entire world together, I can’t help but think that is a VERY large mob.

And so, if one were to agree with a single word of what I’ve written, we are left with a very disturbing formula:

Mask + Duckspeak + Mob = Idiocy.  The Trinity, as it were.

The Mask allows people across the entire globe (the Mob) to express themselves without any sense of personal responsibility.  Using Duckspeak, which only serves to agitate various components within the Mob, the Mob galvanizes itself into a swirling mass of negativity, most popularly known as “trolling” or “griefing.”

Heres wut i c:  

I see in one hundred years’ time a planet-wide population able only to communicate using a series of grunts and - assuming texting works the same way - thumb gestures.  No one will be able to get a viewpoint across about anything of importance, and all attention will be given to the funniest “nut shot” video on YouTube - most likely called “U200b” by this point.

Back in 2006, a movie put out by Mike Judge with a similar title as my proposed trinity -  "Idiocracy" - predicted a comparable trend.  It’s really quite scary to see a sequence of events that are eerily in line with the premise of that film.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m being condescending.  Maybe I’m an elitist jerk.  All I know is, as much as I love the internet and its infinite potential for greatness, the future scares the crap out of me, and people on there are damn mean.

Kids these days…rabble rabble rabble…

Copyright 2014
Michael F. Mercurio

No comments: