In elementary school our computer classes consisted of a photocopy of a keyboard and practicing typing on that black and white sheet of paper. At home, we had a primitive computer with 5 1/4 inch floppy disk drive and I only ever remember playing a game that kept telling me to "Get psyched." I spent a lot of time trying to figure out the definition of "psyched." I had heard of "psycho," so I assumed it was somehow related to being crazy. For me, that game, with its giant pixels and limited neon color pallet, was about getting crazy.
Eventually we got a Gateway computer for Christmas. I think I was in middle or high school. It was a family computer, set up in the living room. Just like the kitchen telephone attached to the wall, there was absolutely no privacy. We soon realized that our Christmas present did not include internet access. I remember exploring the Cooking with Julia Child CD-ROM that came with the computer for hours, out of boredom. A few years passed, and we got dial-up. That was in the late-90's. I did not have a cell phone until my Freshman year of college. So, it's safe to say that I did not grow up with the kind of technology and connectedness that kids these days take for granted.
Instead, I read. I read a lot as a kid. Not all of it would be considered great works of fiction. I had a pretty intense Christopher Pike phase. Even if it was bad fiction, it was good I was reading. It developed my vocabulary, and over time my tastes refined. I went from (R.L.) Stein to Steinbeck in a number of years.
Due in large part to my age, the limited resources of my childhood, and my love of English, I did not take kindly to emoticons and internet slang usage. In fact, I refused it--all of it. I decided that people should understand my emotion based on my vocabulary. It seemed stupid for me to write LOL when I had never used the phrase "Laugh out loud" before. Smileys just seemed childish to me, and a way of belittling myself and those around me. Plus, it dumbed down the English language. People weren't really describing how they were feeling; they were depending on a serious of symbols grouped to look like sideways faces. During my college Instant Messenger (AIM) phase, MySpace, and Facebook, I avoided all of it.
I tend to take certain issues very seriously and have trouble finding a middle ground. I have a lot of strong views regarding politics, feminism, and veganism that are difficult for me to budge on. My stepmother has told me that I am like my dad in that way. He's a conservative livestock farmer, and our beliefs are polar opposite. Neither of us budge. Also, I can be a little bit of a snob with writing and literature, because I am so fond of good writing.
I have made systematic attempts to improve my stubbornness and the seriousness with which I view so many issues. Having a solid stance on an issue is important. We should examine social phenomena, beliefs, and our actions. We should apply an ethical and intellectual rationale. But doing so can be isolating. As a vegan, I am shaped hugely by my absolute refusal to take part in the use or consumption of animal products. Having any kind of strong belief can result in the same exclusion from the majority. So, I'm trying. I'm trying to find a middle ground.
When I got an iPhone, I finally gave in to the use of emoticons. With quick, mundane responses usually expected for texting communication, emojis seemed to help express what we did not have time to write. Or, what was expected of us for SMS communication. Flowery language, though beautiful and expressive, is seen as a little strange when information conveyed in a quick manner is highly valued.
I still do not support the constant usage of symbols to describe emotions, but I understand their place and think that as long as we are not completely forgetting about how to write, and how to write well, integrating these symbols does not have to be considered negative. It is also essential to remember that this is a part of our culture. It has become a dialect in its own right that should be understood and analyzed. The English language should not be forgotten or ignored. It is the basis for other English language dialects, after all. We should not rely on emoticons and slang. However, there is a level of ignorance associated with complete dismissal of any culturally significant entity, and that includes emoticons and internet slang. And ignorance is the last attribute with which I want to be associated.
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