Monday, October 26, 2009

Text-Talk, Like Kudzu, Continues to Colonize

Earlier this month, I came across a CNN story [link] about a reality show performer named Kandi Burruss whose fiance, Ashley "A.J." Jewell, was beaten to death at a strip club called "Body Tap."

You can't make these names up, but that's not my point.

What struck me (so to speak) was CNN's inclusion of Kandi's Twitter posts about her loss. Here's the copy/paste:
"im just in one of those moods where i dont wanna talk, i dont wanna b held & told its gonna b ok. i just wanna cry myself 2 sleep, alone," she says.

"i could never n a million years imagine this happening. please pray for AJ's children. that's who im the most concerned 4."

"im bout 2 giv my swollen eyes sum rest now. i just wanted to say thanks 2 every1 for their prayers."
Look, I don't mean to trivialize this tragedy. Anyone deserves compassion in Kandi's situation. Perhaps we should leave this as a live-and-let live situation (except for the dude who inflicted blunt force trauma on A.J.).

But I can't wrap my head around Kandi's choice to share news of her genuinely painful suffering in the language of text-talk. To reiterate: "im bout 2 giv my swollen eyes sum rest now... i just wanted to say thanks 2 every1"


Your fiance just got his head pulverized, and you're too bereaved to spell "everyone"?

Maybe the matter is the medium. Twitter demands brevity; the 140 character-cap doesn't allow for encyclopedic bloviation [that's what blogs are for]. And then there's the matter of personal choice. No doubt, anyone seriously calling herself "Kandi" is going to write however she darn well pleases.

Still, if I were sharing heartbreaking news, in any form, I'd take a break from trendy-chat. I'd certainly differentiate between "sum" and "some." But that's just me.

What about the larger trend? Well, it's hardly news that people -- "ppl," in text-talk -- increasingly resort to telescoped language. It's quick and it's popular, yet it could also represent a problem, especially as functional and fashionable choices continue to blur our willingness, if not our ability, to convey complex ideas in meaningful ways.

At some point I fear that we're creating a world where public discourse is little more than a cacophony of car honks and fart noises, the verbal equivalent of typing (or saluting) with one middle finger. And when it transforms from clever technique to ubiquitous practice, all this rapi-tapping pushes us further along into the din.

No, I'm not railing for some abstract principle of "decorum" or "etiquette." I'm just advocating the more basic principle of "not sounding like an 14 year old who just discovered Prince," at least when writing about the loss of a loved one. That's my hopelessly outdated dream.

wats urs?

December 20, 2009 update: Here's a copy/paste from CNN's report of Ashton Kutcher's Twitter Post following the death of Brittany Murphy: "2day the world lost a little piece of sunshine. My deepest condolences go out 2 Brittany's family, her husband, & her amazing mother Sharon."

January 5, 2010 update: Here's a copy/paste from one of Tila Tequila's Twitter Posts following the death of Casey Johnson: "R.I.P my Angel. @caseyjonsonJnJ u will forever be in my heart! I love u so so much and we will Marry when I see U in Heaven my Wifey."

September 16, 2010 update: Creepy loser Wisconsin prosecutor sends repeated come-on texts to crime victim, including this gem: "Are you the kind of girl that likes secret contact with an older married elected DA ... the riskier the better?" followed by the kicker: "I would not expect you to be the other woman. I would want you to be so hot and treat me so well that you'd be THE woman! R U that good?" Really. R U that stupid?

December 30, 2010 update: Raz-B tweets his displeasure at Chris Brown: "@chrisbrown u victimize victims, ur a homophobe, ur on the down low & a woman beater. Merry Christmas & thx 4 showin every1 ur true colors."

January 17, 2012 update: Some idiot ignores a restraining order: "Even though u r mad at me will u still marrier [sic] me? ... I love you!"

Related Posts

Text-Speak and the New Discourse - Djelloul Marbrook has written an interesting piece about the impact of online communication on what counts as good writing, and he offers a provocative thesis, that today's electronic writing, often a lazy mishmash of lazy and hackneyed tripe, may yet unfold into something new and transformative.

Dont h8: Keyboard Got Me LOLing - A fullsize keyboard for folks who write in LOLs has arrived. It's called the Fast Finger Keyboard, and it offers a host of TextTalk options under the function keys, everything from ASAP to TTYL. The keyboard also allows you to switch from QWERTY to A-Z formats.

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