It wasn’t terribly long ago that we as a society labored under the common perception that ‘people on the internet’ were somehow different from ‘people you see in the grocery store [or some other place of normative transit].’ In the 1990s I became enamored with the idea of ‘talking to people on the internet,’ at which point my mother expressed distress that ‘these people’ to whom I was talking were somehow more likely to sexually assault me or otherwise commit fetishistic murder upon me than your average ‘IRL’ person.
Fortunately I have survived to the ripe age of [????] without having been the victim of fetishistic murder on the part of an ‘internet person.’ In fact, these days ‘everyone’ is on the internet; in cosmopolitan circles it’s in fact considered more, like, socially-acceptable or whatever to meet members of your preferred sex via social media than it is to engage with what might once have been known as ‘the pick-up scene,’ also known as bars at closing time where one might squint vaguely through the haze at someone or another who seems like you probably won’t hate them in the morning and decide to acquaint yourselves through such invitations as “want to get out of here?”
So, like, wait a sec – this isn’t an article about ‘online dating’ or something like that; it’s just that certain topical deviations are necessary as active demonstration of the age in which we live; in other words, whereas your mom might have really raised the f-cking alarm re you ‘meeting someone online’ 6-12 years ago, now your mom [or otherwise suitable parent figure, possibly your ‘BFF’] is all like, “oh, hey, you met him on J-Date, sounds perfect, at least you didn’t meet [them] in some bar.“
Right, so the net effect of the normalization of internet socialization is that the more integrated and therefore acceptable it becomes, the more likely individuals are to prefer to conduct most if not all of their personal and professional communication alike through these channels.
Yet there’s a problem. Even though this is totally the 21st century, there are still people to whom ‘netiquette’ still applies. Remember ‘netiquette’? Like, okay, here we go, 7 o’clock news circa 1997, some television anchor, wearing the sort of whimsical expression one might lend to someone patiently tolerating a fad, is displaying dated infographics as a backdrop to their explications of the meanings for ‘LOL’ and ‘ROFL’ and ‘;).’
Like, “whoa, hey, we’re establishing a new language here, people! Let’s see how long this lasts!!”
Those people probably feel kinda old now. The wildland of an era in which text-based communication is not only normative but preferable has given entire generations the liberty to define individual tone online. There aren’t really “rules,” like maybe you could type something into a Gchat window and the person on the other end appears to totally be online but isn’t answering you, and yet they haven’t exactly committed an etiquette breach per se, it’s you who is obligated to know that they might just be totally busy or not imminently available to you or disinterested in your elected topic of conversation or whatnot. I mean, if you type to someone a sincere question and they respond only with “lol,” okay, that’s pretty screwed up, but even then, you have the leisure to feel like, “okay, maybe they just don’t have the same immediate facility with this communications ‘platform’ as I do, it’s cool, okay.”
Somehow, though, there are still people who if you TYPE IN ALL CAPS will reply [via Twitter or similar]: “WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING,” as if caps lock text were actually, quantifiably and materially somehow still analogous to ‘shouting,’ as if it were possible to ‘shout’ via unvoiced prose. Whenever I type in caps and someone replies re me ‘shouting’ I feel like they must have just finished watching a ‘netiquette’ broadcast circa 1996.
BULLETIN: THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO EMPLOY ‘CAPS LOCK’ TEXT FOR EMPHASIS, AND SIMILARLY THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO EMPLOY WHAT EVERYONE CALLS ‘IRONIC’ SINGLE QUOTES WITHOUT IRONY, BECAUSE THEY ARE MAKING THE VALID CREATIVE DECISION TO INDICATE A CHANGE IN TONE OR TO DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM THE ITEM IN ‘IRONIC QUOTES’ AND IT’S LIKE TOTALLY A VALID TONAL ‘THING.’ No one is ‘shouting.’ No one is ‘being ironic,’ and those who comment on the tonal choices people make in the use of text just kind of seem really inhibited or legislative. When I or anyone else Tweets or updates Facebook in all caps and someone replies ‘WHY ARE YOU SHOUTING’ or ‘why are you employing ironic quotes’ they smack to me distinctly of someone who has just finished watching a ‘netiquette’ broadcast circa 1996.
For further illustration, I personally have highly attached to the ‘tilde’ (~) in order to illustrate tone. Honestly, I have no concept of the originally-intended purpose of a tilde on a keyboard. Like, I could Wikipedia it, but I won’t, because I’ve just owned it so hard over the past several months. Look at the thing: ~, a sort of insouciant little sing-song line, sketched as if to indicate the continuance of a vowel, or of a sentiment.
I can’t quite put my finger on why I like to use a tilde at the end of joyful sentences, like maybe I am ‘sing-song’ or even celebratory in a fashion that would maybe be awkward if I did it in actual IRL voiced speech. Like, online it is acceptable to carry out vowels at length to indicate levity (e.g.: hey~), but in an offline environment if I was glad to see someone and said “heeeeyyyyyyyyyyy” (try vocalizing as such), I may sound perhaps verbally delayed or otherwise awkward.
Thus to me the almighty tilde has become not only an expression of levity, but an affirmation of all of the ways that communication in persistent, connected online text is its own distinct creature, its own unclaimed frontier of invention that must not be legislated by dated ‘netiquette’ news anchors; I will not be told to STOP SHOUTING should I wish to employ caps-lock text, and you will understand, full wiggling-force, my love and levity should I employ the tilde, or should I decline to punctuate or capitalize, should I employ single quotes without intention to be ‘ironic,’ or should I, as a speaker in this brave new world, otherwise reject all heretofore acceptable definitions of grammatical ‘accuracy.’
If you are an ‘english major’ and you are positively quailing WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD
You should totally try it~!