Columnist for Wednesday, 5/9 - Sound and Fury

Chat Room

I spend a lot of time in chat rooms. Too much time. I need to stop torturing myself, not just so I can spend my seconds on other, more important things, like making up surveys about my hair, but to prevent myself from taking a shillelagh to the heads of most of the typists behind every lame screen name that appears in these virtual lounges.

The problem with chat rooms is that your grasp of the English language, particularly in its written form, goes out for all to see. In some ways, chat rooms have created a new dialect, one where "your" is the same as "you're", "its" is a perfect substitute for "it's", and "lol" trumps the onomatopoeia "ha ha" in the lexicon. I've especially noticed that in this high-sped, high-tech world, most people (for I assume there are real people behind the "words", note the quotations, that appear almost randomly on my screen) seem to be in a rush to say nothing, and an abbreviated nothing at that. Words are reduced to letters, numbers, and shorthand phrases that mean other things as a way to speed up the communication and prevent any "dreadful silence" in the room. Only in a chat room can the following be considered a conversation:

A/S/L?
24/F/NY...U?
24/M/FL I like your SN. IM me
lol. k

And away they go, for what I can only suppose will be an engaging tete a tete hinged around the implications of Lev Kuleshov's experiments and Eisenstein's theories of montage when applied to industrio-capitalist marketing techniques forced upon the public in between the shock-driven infotainment and the pure crap that constitutes modern American broadcasting. I'm sure that' s what they are talking about, right?

Perhaps I am being hasty in my attack on the chatters, for maybe they are new to the keyboard, and unsure of their typing skills, yet still want to participate in the discourse. I do not want to be so elitist as to exclude the two-index-finger hunt and peckers from joining the free flowing reindeer games led by those ambidextrous few who can pound out 80+ words per minute. But even when time passes, the conversation rarely swings to anything more than a "where are you, who are you" back and forth between people coming and going. These chat rooms are not the pubs of England, the cafes of Paris, or even the dive bars of New York, where you could at least hope to meet something so pathetic that they could only be human. Instead, in the chat rooms, we have people as search engines, casting out feelers into every room, seeing if there is an appropriate "match" among the few non-bots spamming porn. Speed is of the essence, I suppose, because we all know there just isn't enough time in the day to do everything we want, and looking for a mate in a chat room is just so much quicker and safer than risking 10 minutes of bad pick up lines and being rewarded with a faceful of five dollar Cosmopolitan.

In our haste, what are we losing, besides the nuances of the English language? In addition to the absolute refusal of most chat roomers to even contemplate using the apostrophe key (I get a "FUCK YOU!", or the more apropos "FU!" reaction every time I point out that ubiquitous grammar error), I see a lack of anything of substance. Wit is dead, folks. Just learn a few shorthand phrases, and you're off to the races to find your cyber dream tonight. The art of wooing, of courting, has been killed by a "QUICK! DO YOU WANT TO FUCK OVER THE COMPUTER TONIGHT?" mentality among the digerati. How far off were William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson when they wrote about "putting yourself into the Circuit", where you can call up or be called up by anyone wanting a "good time" in their sci-fi classic, Logan's Run? And if these people DO end up meeting, and, Cthulhu forbid, MATING, they are only going to make more idiots who end up banging pudgy fingers onto keyboards in a chaotic explosion of letters that only other desperate souls who would rather read said collection of letters than the works of Dickens or Poe will be able to understand.

Bottom line: I like my language. It's astounding, variegated, froward, rigorous, intricate, discomfiting, enriching, exhilarating, and soulful. Yes, I majored in it in college (don't worry, I pay for my ignorant degree decision with years of unemployment), yes, I am biased in favor of it, yes, I cringe every time I see a little cut taken out of the language every time "your one crazy dude" comes up in an email, IM, or chat room. But no, I am not going to take this squatting over the can. So to everyone whom I annoy with my constant nagging about grammar and spelling...tough shit.

Coda: I suppose the real lesson here is that I should stop going into chat rooms, and get a fucking job.

PS-I am also sure there are grammar errors in this missive, but only because I'm a hypocrite.


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