Thursday, December 14, 2006

LOL!!!! :))

Before I started blogging I used to get quite irritated with the annoying little icons, smiley faces, ‘LOL’ type comments , indiscriminate use of exclamation marks! and the ‘god, aren’t I funny!!!’ implication of several exclamation marks in email communication. But I think I understand now. Psychology tells us that most of our communication is non-verbal (I can’t be bothered researching the actual figure, but suffice to say it is highish.) As a therapist I know that I ‘listen’ to the non-verbals just as much as the verbal content of people’s communication. Posture, facial expression, eye-contact, tone of voice (paralanguage) and gestures all communicate a different aspect of the story I am hearing. Sometimes people tell me that they are OK, but their non-verbals tell a very different story. I listen to my own body and internal experience, which will often pick up their unconscious communications thus allowing me to make the implicit more explicit.

So if communication is so complex and richly textured, how do we express ourselves in discussions that rely entirely on the written word? (I think this is different to ‘proper’ writing, by the way, which doesn’t rely on an explicit exchange between author and reader in the way that blogs, emails, letters etc. do.) It is very easy to misunderstand and redefine the other’s intention and motivation. We unconsciously project our own paranoia and then persecute the other. (Think of all those arguments that have started from a poorly worded text message. I am thinking of starting a support group for people who compulsively misunderstand text messages and find themselves in yet another text argument.)

Necessity is the mother of invention. Hence we shoe-horn in those smiley faces, ‘LOL’ commentaries and further indiscriminate exclamation marks (!) so we can let the reader know that ‘I’m a nice person really, even though I have just left a potentially disagreeable message on your blog’. They may be a bit flat-footed in comparison to our usual complex psychological communications, but I guess they do the trick.


nmj said...

Hey Ms Melancholy

I also used to hate smileys, but I can wholly see the point of them, it keeps things safe, but I still can't bring myself to use them. I will get there.

LOL, however, makes me shudder.

Really like your blog too.

Ms Melancholy said...

I agree. LOL makes me want to smack people hard on the legs. I confess to heading into smiley world though, which I guess is my own personal dilemma about wanting to act like a total gobshite without actually offending anyone.

Atyllah said...

Now see, if all humans were telepathic they wouldn't need all that extraneous stuff in their written communications. Not so???
Right!!! :-)
You hate LOL, how about ROTFLMAO
*shakes head* and shuffles off...

Ms Melancholy said...

Atyllah, please help. ROTFLMAO means what, exactly?

Atyllah said...

Er... rolling on the floor laughing my arse off
Of course , you could just have ROTFL
Depends how much you're laughing, I guess. I never get the things you humans find funny at the best of times...

Ms Melancholy said...

Thanks for the education Atyllah. You are clearly more blog-literate than I. I don't imagine it's a phrase I will be over using though....

Caroline said...

I teach a course for the OU. It considers the changes and use of English grammar.
I find this topic fascinating.
We have evolved the use of our language to allow for the expression of paralinguistic features. Before blogging, I did not overuse the exclamation, now it adds emphasis!!!! I can use fillers ... er ... to show hesitiation in my voice. It allows for the development of a blog voice and persona.
I find it fascinating. On my blog and in my writing, I am experimenting with the 'anorak wearing linguistic loving' me.

So LOL and have fun. Our language allows for boundless enthusiasm!;-)
Linguistics rocks! and I am sooooooooooo cool! ;-0


Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Caroline,

what a great permission for us all! (Look, I used an exclamation mark! You are liberating me!!) I think all we were waiting for was a theoretical explanation and now we have it. (And you are VERY cool...)

Mrs said...

I'm interested to know why people find thinkgs like LOL, smileys etc so annoying / offensive?

As you so rightly point out, the internet is full of misunderstandings and pointless arguments based on the lack of body language and other helpful communication cues. I find emoticons and the like to be invaluable substitutes for real-world non-verbals. And yet people get incredibly sniffy about them.

As far as I can gather, the objection is that they're cliched, or - let's be honest - a bit common. Their ubiquity makes them corny. But there are plenty of other phrases and ticks which are common and yet still used and tolerated. And nowhere near as useful.

So anyway, I'd like to agree with your post. There's nothing wrong with them. They're handy shorthand, and they serve a noble purpose!

Mrs said...

Urgh. That "Mrs" was me, Clare from Boob Pencil. Am having a lot of problems posting comments in Blogger at the moment...

Ms Melancholy said...

Hi Mrs Clare,

nice to hear from you again. I think you're right, that we probably see it as a bit common and unsophisitcated.

I tried to leave a message for you on Boob Pencil this week but I couldn't for some odd. You said in a previous post that I need to update to another version of Blogger - I am a technical numpty so not sure how to. I am already on Beta - is there something else I need to do?

Ms Baroque said...

The problem with emoticons, LOLs, rows of exclamation marks, ellipses etc, is that they have taken over a role that used to be performed by actual grammar, syntax, and... er.... words?!??!! (By the way, that should have been a full stop there, as it was a declarative sentence.)

If people realised that it's one rule for text messages and another for "real" writing, that would be one thing (I have certainly said LOL in personal emails, on many occasions). And if this shorthand were actually enriching the language, that would be another. but it isn't; and I'm tired of getting emails that sound illiterate, especially at work.

The issue is essentially that English is one of the richest languages in the world. Our use of it as an expressive medium is becoming impoverished by this fear of words, maybe even irreversibly. My kids come home with thewir ungrammatical homework uncorrected, with ungrammatical notes fromt heir teachers in the margins - and possibly even hand-drawn smileys!

Caroline, I'm glad you said "paralinguistic" - but "soooooooo cool" is close enough to actual linguistic expression that some might find your distinction there a bit subtle.

Also, you say it is linguistics that is "sooooooo cool," and yet you have just called this stuff "paralinguistics." Surely linguistics as a discipline still applies to the function of words and syntax?

By all means, be interested in this new, primitive means of communication; be interested in how it fills a phychological need and conveys meaning typographically; but don't confuse it with the wonderful, intricate, subtly nuanced English language.

Ms Melancholy said...

Ms B, thanks for dropping by. I agree that we need to teach our youngsters to distinguish between 'real' writing and informal email speak. I too loathe the bad grammar of txt and email speak, although I really don't claim to be an expert on grammar and syntax! I think that technology is offering us a genuinely dialogic relationship via the written word though, and we need new conventions for that. (At least we seem to need new conventions, because they are emerging organically.)

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