I just finished reading this really interesting essay about the language of the Internet, how it's used and how it can be an equalizer to allow people to communicate with each other. Specifically, I'm most interested in the part on the second page that implies that Internet communication, whether it's fairly straightforward and conservative in its presentation, or packed with memes and gifs in order to convey meaning, removes any filters based on the unconscious biases we have about face-to-face communication.
When communities like the ODeck are built, and we have prolonged interactions with each other, friendships are developed and sometimes that goes beyond online interaction to seeing each other's meatspace forms. But in general, when you're not in that kind of online environment, you have no idea who you're talking to - you don't know if they're male, female, or have a non-binary identity. You don't know what color their skin is or what their ethnicity is. You don't know which country they're from. You don't how many languages they have, or if they're communicating with you in their first, second or third language (depending on their proficiency). You're (hopefully) interacting with them as a person without making too many assumptions as to who you think that person is.
This article has made me think about how I communicate online, as well, which has led to some questions:
What's your preferred communication style?
I feel that I express myself the best in writing, where I have time to see the words on the page or on the screen and make adjustments to make them say what I really mean. This means that I regard failures in written communication worse than failures in spoken communication - I know my strength doesn't necessarily lie in real-time in-person conversation. I'm able to forgive myself for mistakes and move on, for the most part. Or I err on the side of saying nothing (which has its own problems). But when I have clearly failed in communicating my point in writing, I feel terrible. That's supposed to be the "foolproof" method, right? Unforgivable.
Is your online communication style distinct from your communication style in other settings?
I would say that mine is. I'm much more careful in work and professional communication, of course. But even with friends and family I don't necessarily make the same kinds of jokes or rely on the same kinds of cultural reference points. I think this is really what makes Internet language stand out - memes, while sometimes annoying as hell, are useful in aiding communication. Things that go viral aid in communication. They expand the Internet cultural reference points so that we can understand each other better.
Do you ever feel like you could use a method or dialect of Internet language in your in-person conversations? If so, which one?
I often wish I could use images and gifs in my spoken conversations. I feel like it's more effective to convey feelings or information in a single image than it is to explain it in words. And if you're in a culture or setting in which being explicit about emotions is frowned upon, it would help SO MUCH. Or, conversely, it could help you give the lie to what you're saying, if you don't really believe it.
What's your favorite Internet dialect?
When I was but a young n00b, I used to enjoy the language of the Lolcats but since then I've recognized it for the cutesy grammatical nightmare that it is - and I say this as one who appreciates the artistic absence of punctuation and grammar where appropriate.
Right now I currently favor the dialects I'm learning from Tumblr, but I am by no means fluent in Tumblr. Parts of it scare me. ;)
Oh, and about this weather, which shut down my city because it doesn't have any snow removal equipment: