Calm, Cool and Committed

Three Moms and a Dude

Social Conditioning

on November 2, 2012

10 things I need to know about life that I learned from the interwebz.

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My mother in law sent a text yesterday in all caps. I think I physically flinched while reading it. I immediately shot back a reply that went something like this: “Cool your jets woman!” Well, that’s what I wanted to say. Instead, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that technology is a language and our parents are Second Language Learners. If you wanted to get super linguidorky, we “speak” a creole and our children are the first generation who can truly call themselves native speakers in technology. But, I digress.

Being a part of the evolution of the technological dialect has actually molded my character a bit. One tends to try to think before speaking a bit when the entire planet is your audience. I’ve either learned or reaffirmed the following lessons through Facebook, email, chat rooms, AIM (remember that?!), text messaging and Google.

1. Don’t Be Too Unique
Sometimes, when I Google things that should be simple to find, I get zero results. If, however, I replace my query with more common wording, I have pages and pages of results. We are all hard wired more or less the same and process things similarly (which shouldn’t be a shocker). If this weren’t the case, memes like LOL Cats and Someecards wouldn’t flood your wall. Lesson learned: We are a society. A certain amount of thinking alike is not only expected but required for survival.

2. If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Wait For Someone Else to Be Rude and Agree
More than once, I have seen people flamed to the high heavens for a simple mistake or slightly less than perfectly researched error. The first half dozen responses tend to give the benefit of the doubt and then someone inevitably calls the OP out on his/her idiocy. After the dam is broken, it’s on! Scores and scores of other posters chime in with, “Yeah! What he said!” until the OP dramatically announces that he is going to close his account. This backfires (imagine 200 buh-byes and don’t-let-the-proverbial-door-hit-yas) and he is forced to create a new screen name. Lesson learned: Bullying is everywhere. Humans are not above ascribing to pecking orders and gang mentality.

3. If You Want to See Sunshine, Take Off Those Morbid Dark Sunglasses
If I post a rant or vent, I may get a couple raised fists and thumb up but a simple, “It’s beautiful out today” will have my notifier vibrating itself silly for the rest of the day. Lesson learned: People like happy. Smile and the world smiles with you; frown and frown alone. A

4. There’s No Such Thing As Right
Before the Internet, I often felt like my opinions were correct. This is, of course, a contradiction in terms but I didn’t know that until I got my smug butt handed to me by 300 strangers a couple times. If you want to test out a theory quickly, type it up as fact and post it in a chat room. You will quickly see every possible hole in your hypothesis.
Lesson learned: Seek first to understand.

5. Be Very Clear
When your interlocutor cannot see your face, seemingly innocent expressions can ignite WWIII. There is no room for sarcasm in text messages or online.
Lesson learned: Don’t assume the other guy got the message you meant to send.

6. Silence is Golden
If you are in a text messaging fight, nothing will tick off your opponent faster than a few harsh words – except for a lack thereof. If you simply commence radio silence, the guy in the other corner of the ring will text himself silly wondering where you went. Wait through all the threats and curses and you’ll eventually get the “OK. I’m sorry. Call me?” Works like a charm.
Lesson learned: Let the other guy blow off steam before you step into the ring.

7. Body Language is Critical “No!!! >;;;:(” does by equal “No :-P” nor “No ;)”. There is more to words than the letters that compose them. We need to see each others’ faces and hear each others’ tone of voice in order to effectively communicate. Have you ever pondered the irony of the fact that in half the time it took to invent a purely mechanical means of communication, we created a way to turn black and white text into faces, hearts, roses and more? Humans need body language more than we need words. Lesson learned: People can read you like a book. Make sure they aren’t judging you by a cover- be true to your message by making your body language reinforce your meaning.

8. Friendship Takes Work I still have letters from my 5th grade BFF, my middle school BFF, my high school BFFs and my college BFF. Yet, I couldn’t tell you what 3/4 of those women are doing today…because they aren’t on Facebook. On the other hand, I can tell you whether my ex-boyfriend is seeing someone new, where she works, how many of my other friends know her and where she got her new tattoo…because they are both on Facebook. I honestly believe that if I had Facebook growing up like my younger sister did, I would have learned more quickly how to patch up a wounded relationship and keep it healthy enough to at least wish one another happy birthday every year. It used to be too easy to let the distance erode friendships. Now, I know more about my friends in Spain than my neighbors, I’ve built a relationship with my second-cousin-once-removed (can you name yours?) and kept a good enough friendship with ex-boyfriends to help one get a very good job. And all it took was the occasional thumbs up when someone posted a photo or a witty meme. Lesson learned: One step goes along way when it is aimed in the direction of a friend.

9. Share
Today, a friend “stole” my Facebook status and reposted it on her wall. One of her friends, in turn, asked if she could copy it and my friend said, “Sure, I stole it, too!” Instead of being angry that my intellectual property was thieved, I was honored that a whole community of people I’ve never met would be chuckling at my wittiness.
Lesson learned: What’s mine is yours, what’s yours is theirs, what’s theirs will come around and be mine again.

10. The Only Constant is Change I can’t remember the first time I read LOL, but I remember rolling my eyes at spin-offs like: ROTFL, FOOMCL, and LMAO (which I can’t stand for some inexplicable reason). Now, kids are typing letter combos that take serious time and thought to figure out. Sometimes, I give up and Google them. Most recently: “tl;dr” which I find a bit rude. It’s amazing how quickly we “need” something that never existed before. How on earth did I ever have a conversation without using OMG or WTF? Lesson learned: Embrace the new, it may actually be improved. Or not, but at least you won’t be hopelessly out of touch.

I remember when technology was a novelty. Now, it is inextricably woven into the fabric of our culture. How many of you had a mini panic attack at the thought of Sandy wiping out your social networking? Have you noticed that malls don’t have pay phones any more? When’s the last time you walked out of a room and said the letters BRB? Technology used to imitate life but now I think life may be starting to imitate technology. Like if you agree.

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