Written English and spoken English are two vastly different monsters. Any teacher of composition can tell you that, and most can prove it. Just because we speak in certain accepted patterns does not mean we should write in them, they say. But over the years, crafty as we are, we have developed many ways to circumvent the conventions dictated to us both by dusty grammarians and
rhetoricians whose glory days of face-to-face, interpersonal communication have faded into the realms of nostalgia.
Text messaging, instant messaging, and various other forms of digital messaging that negate the necessity for proximity have supplanted archaic forms of communication like conversation, debate, telephone use, and written correspondence. Our fancy new methods of interaction do not require us to be honest with our behaviors, our reactions; they allow us to be stingy with ourselves, giving something to the conversation without actually being forced to feel anything.
Perhaps more fascinating than anything (for those of us who fancy ourselves wordsmiths at least) is the habitual melding of written and spoken English that developed organically from digital communication media. Now, more often than not, we can conflate the way we communicate in informal situations with the way we write, causing those grammarians and rhetoricians in the musty, dusty corners of our culture to cringe and twitch and denounce us all.
A combination of this sort has its own unique requirements though. A new language, new universally accepted thought processes. Thus was born a hybrid language, one content with abbreviations and substitutions, cryptic in their trendiness: LOL, BRB, ROFL, and LMAO.
While theses abbreviations certainly serve a useful function for those of us too lazy or too busy to complete our thought processes in complete words or, God forbid, complete sentences, they do imply more emotional activity than we generally physically express.
For example, Laughing Out Loud is a wonderful sentiment. And we would probably all be better off if we did it more often. But the truth is that we don’t do it nearly as much as we say we do, creating in us the kind of emotional liars we would never be if we were communicating face to face. The truth is that more often than not we don’t even crack a smile as we LOL at our friends and loved ones. And while I’m pretty sure the sight of someone Rolling On The Floor Laughing would probably make me LOL, I have never actually seen someone do it, but there it is, all the same, in emails and text messages, floating through cyberspace, bringing feigned joy to those for whom it’s intended.
Most of this communication is harmless in its effect. We are not, as a rule, scarred by the mingling of conversational and formal speech, and an acronym, to my knowledge, has never harmed anyone. But what happens when our semantics and our behaviors don’t match up? What happens when the disconnect between what we say we feel and what we actually feel is found outl? What do we do when we realize we really aren’t as funny or clever as we thought we were? Do what we say we feel and what we actually feel have to be so exaggeratedly different? And what would happen if we reverted to honest communication, if we didn’t LOL every time we didn’t want to sound too harsh?
The truth is: IDK.