The wife and I embarked on a journey to try and teach our 12-year-old son how to use social media responsibly. Telling him to avoid ramblings like:
“This is turning out to be such a bad day…” or “I wish he knew…” or “I am not sure if I should cry…” and my favourite “I am so alone…”
(Note there is always a pause behind those statements and then another 17 comments of people asking “Why?” And for some reason the original postee would maintain this cryptic vibe throughout the thread.)
So in order for my son to understand that there’s a reaction or interpretation on any comment made, he was restricted in using the BBM service on his Blackberry. It had the benefit of a fix amount of contacts, just friends and me and the wife. This implies that the damage could be contained when he called some innocent girl stupid for dumping him. Yes he did.
So I used to get his updates constantly and if something was not above board I would ask him to change it. I can feel the surge of readers commenting on privacy, but hey, this is how we wanted to equip our son with a sword and shield to fight the monster with the body of facebook and the head of a blue bird. But this is not the point.
The point is, when I was reading his posts, I was not able to follow any of the conversations! I simply could not understand all the acronyms the kids are using today. I was bombarded with BFF and LOL and LMAO and YOLO and TGIF and G2G. It did not make any sense. I repeatedly asked my son what he was saying. I came to the conclusion that these acronyms was developed as a code by a secret society of kids, who has parents like me. I finally relinquished my duty, sending the little warrior off to fight the dragon.
But it’s sad to see words and sentences being reduced to letters. To see generic expressions for such a wide range of emotions. It is almost like microwaving language, the quick fix, which was evident when I confronted my son.
“Why do you write like this? You need to use full words my boy. What if the person on the other end does not understand what you’re on about?”
“Ah dad, don’t worry. This is our way of speaking. It is quick and I can follow various conversations with my mates while chillaxing on the coach. We do not have the time for full sentences, besides that’s old school, g2g.”
Besides him using the word “chillaxing”, which was pretty cool, and giving me the name of my blog, I was left with a sense of dread. Writers use words to sculp sentences that portray a specific idea or event or dialogue, that would hopefully evoke some kind of emotion in the reader. The sentences are painstakingly crafted, the words carefully selected, like a surgeon working on a brain. And then when you reach the end of the piece, your mindprint is all over the page. It is our art. What if our art are being placed in jeopardy because people do not want to paint with full words anymore?
A few days later my son bought me his homework to sign. He had to write an essay. It was about pirates and hidden treasure and adventure, no acronyms. I was beside myself, filled with so much joy. There is hope!
The secret in saving the art of writing is to just keep doing it. Tell stories that is impossible with generic letters and continue sharing life. Just write write write so we can fight this detroyer of language.
And by the way TGIF…