Monday, September 7, 2009

Body language in text: How the new millenia will send and percieve a social yawn

"You need more exclamations!" My friend said "more. That will prove you are decidedly friendly." She was right, I needed more exclamations. Otherwise, my purely business-related "thanks, you're the best!!!!" would be seen as dismissal, if not outright passive-aggressive. And, if its as simple as an assistant receiving a package, we have obviously begun to (whether we like it or not) pay attention to specific social cyber-cues.

It is true, I believe, that emotional intelligence is a genuine genre of interactive intellect. Some people are amazing at making machines work, but have no ability to comprehend their neighbor's obvious boredom. Some people are the exact opposite. And while my friend advises me to add an extra "!!!" to my email, I begin to come to terms with the fact that our generation has become super-sensitive to vague social cues.

The internet, once again, the culprit. Take the emoticon for example. If someone ends their email with an ":)" they are either: being friendly, being flirtatious, making up for something their fault or, trying to send a more subversive sentiment.

Indeed, the subversive sentiment, the one we choose rarely to recognize. The smile that exists predominantly as the "eye roll" or the under-your-breath response.

It is If I wrote "its ok, I have a few other people who are willing to donate a kidney :)"

It is the emoticon of the martyr syndrome.

But whether we like it or not, these obviously expressive sentiments have become standard.
:) "i like you" [rarely used in heterosexual male friendships, used all the time in platonic male-female friendships]
:-O "you have a new cat?!";
:D "I like drinking"....;
;p "I wink and stick my tongue out at the same time because i don't take myself seriously, and people like that about me"

and let us not forget the:

[sentence]!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! aka "Most assuredly"

Passive social cues have become a bit more extreme over the internet, due mostly to the restrictions of text-related interactions. It used to be that social cues were set by the upper class, that is, after all, how etiquette came to be. The etiquette of old is changing. People are becoming *very nice* face-to-face but more specific on the internet.

When a republican family member wants to take advantage of my left-leaning facebook status, he does so. But at thanksgiving dinner, he might not bring it up or even challenge my philosophy. On the internet though, he feels much freer to express himself. No wonder I have to include a million exclamations to thank a coworker....

So we have become indoctrinated in specificity. Anyone who does not send a specific emotion is either being elusive or socially ignorant. Point is, next time your friend replies to your apology email with a series of abbreviations "it k, talk tmrro?" You should probably come to terms with the social eggshells about to crack under your toes...

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