July 30, 2014

A few comments on the language of texting

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cell waves by arcticcathuffy

I stumbled into a short conversation recently on the value of text-speak or, perhaps more accurately, I was told how text-speak was utterly lacking in value and rotting the minds of the teenage population.

Texting is, indeed, an odd form of communication.  You do have to marvel in curiosity at the chronic need for immediate information exchanged, not to mention the superficiality and triviality of the messages being sent.  Nonetheless, I retorted, you do have to appreciate the enormous creativity involved in the phrases that kids are developing, as well as the implementation of problem solving skills in order to fit as much information as possible into as few characters as necessary.  Given my affinity for efficiency, I like the trend.

My counterpart in the discussion sneered and reiterated the belief that people ought to be able to write out, in longhand, clear, precise, detailed descriptions and think in such terms.  After all, that is how people used to be taught and all those people turned out just fine.  My side of the argument was quickly dismissed.

So, to determine if there was any merit to either side of the conversation, I went to the Google and looked to see what the state of the matter was.  I found most of the argument boiled down into this article: FOCROFLOL: Is Texting Damaging Our Language Skills?

The article points to some research that reveals what I consider to be the universally true answer to every question ever asked:

It depends.

You see, the development of the texting language follows many of the patterns linguists expect a language to follow as it matures.  Yes, there is tremendous creativity and innovation in the use of the language and in the adoption of the technology that enables it.  Information moves faster.  People think faster.  The status quo changes faster.  None of these are, necessarily, bad things.  In fact, much of it is indicative of the future and enhancing these skills will make young people more capable and successful in the future.

Then, of course, there is the “Yes, and…” part of the discussion.

Not having the skills to concentrate and absorb information for long periods of time is a problem.  Not being able to structure your thoughts and make cohesive arguments while taking into account multiple points of view is a problem.  Not knowing how to delay a response, contemplate potential reactions, and carefully word your arguments in order to elicit a reaction is a problem.  All of these things are enabled by training a mind through reading and writing lengthy pieces.  Not to mention the tendency to multitask, which is a self-deceiving activity since we all know that multitasking is a myth.

The takeaways from this conversation I had?  For one, not all things are bad.  Most issues are multifaceted and, while you should have a preferred point of view upon which rest your convictions, it’s not acceptable to say that your point of view is the only one.

Secondly, no matter what you might think of them, today’s young will set the tone for the future.  By saying their ways are silly or stupid and that those folks shouldn’t be acting in such-and-such manner, you do very little to stop their progress.  All you really accomplish is to block only yourself from understanding them.  

If history has shown us anything, it’s that the young will eventually come into positions of power and authority and will not revert back to previous generations’ patterns of behavior. And certainly not because those older generations liked it better … way back when.


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