This is a little revealing, but it’s for the sake of academic discourse, so I’ll make the sacrifice. Also, I am including pictures because they make posts so much more fun!
My roommate and I are both great social observers who really enjoy people-watching. I’ve always enjoyed deconstructing the specimens of my observations, performing a sort of character study of complete strangers; what does the way that guy walks say about him? What’s the intention of his gaze? Why did he chose to wear what he’s wearing?
what does T.I.’s self-presentation say about him? [sidebar: this is an google image search result of “swag”, I personally don’t like T.I.]
What I come up with is arbitrarily founded, based off of deeply embedded cultural and personal values that I may not even be actively aware of, (or that I am fully aware of, such as my inexplicable and supernaturally strong aversion to Toms shoes.)
I hate these.
When time or circumstances don’t permit for real people-watching, the internet substitutes beautifully. Facebook is a fail-proof resource for surveying human behavior. People chose what and how much they want to put online, and whatever gobs of information are available we thus consume and process. You realize patterns and trends, mold images of who you believe the person in question is or wants to be– it can get highly scientific.
Now I know this just sounds like two bitchy girls judging up a storm via the magical internet, but it’s really not as convoluted as it comes across. It’s an act free of malice, it truly only serves entertainment purposes. Though appearances obviously interfere with any evaluation one makes, typically our commentary has very little to do with one’s looks or where their clothes are from.
There are, of course, exceptions.
What we have found more interesting is peoples’ choice of language on Facebook, which is commonly very similar to the much bemoaned texting vernacular. The way people chose to manipulate language has to say something about them, right? So what forces move them to do it in one way versus another? It’s important here to keep in mind too all of the reading we’ve done about language as a tool of judgement, granting power to those who use language in the culturally valued way. When I talk about observing peoples’ writing styles on social media sites I’m not devaluing them because they prefer to say “bcuz” or “cuz” or “bc” (though I invariably read the last one as “birth control” every time.) I’m just asking why they chose to do that? When a writer shapes his language he does it with the purpose of illustrating something important to them; consider Rigoberta Menchú and the fractured Spanish with which she wrote Me llamo Rigoberta Menchú just three years after learning the language (which consequently won her the Nobel Peace Prize.) Similarly the way we as every day people create and fashion words reflects upon us!
But this is Facebook we’re talking about, not anything that’s getting any where near Oprah’s Book Club or high school required reading lists. N rytin like dis duznt seem 2 make n-e thing e-zr. (Kind of makes me think of the activity we did with Ms. Carpenter from the literacy council.) So why do people do it? If not for literary reasons, why would someone complicate language? Is this an act of creation, or one of bastardization? Is this reminiscent of e.e. cummings’ linguistic risk-taking or is it something much less valorous?