Is Our Language Being Driven by Technology?

How often do you find yourself looking back fondly to the old days? Perhaps someone pops up in your memory bank and you often wonder how they are today. Leaving school, college, university, changing jobs, relocating or having children for instance, can happen in what seems the blink of an eye. It’s very easy, leading busy lives and losing contact with someone unintentionally and before one knows it, years have passed.  I am certainly guilty, I have done it many times!

Today, modern technology or rather social media allows us to find people more easily. Gone are the days of needing to pick up the gigantic Yellow Pages or the phone book and spending hours following our fingertips along the tiny font in alphabetical order. Staring at you would be thousands of initials, names and addresses. I still remember the smell of the paper and getting ink all over my hands, not to mention feeling cross eyed at the end of the task – probably because I should have worn my glasses!

The modern kids today would think that’s hilarious, whilst holding their latest gadget!

How far we have come. Punch the name of a person in the a search bar in Facebook, Instagram or Google for example and sometimes we are rewarded with tons of information, photographs and the option to message the person we once knew. Other times it can be problematic, especially if that person has married, changed their name or doesn’t use social media. I for one would be tricky to find, as I have changed my name not once but twice!

Sending that initial contact when you message someone on Facebook with something along the lines of  ‘Hello – where have you been?’  Such a simple sentence may result in reuniting long lost friends with sweet success or may well end being a disappointing experience, as it hasn’t been smooth sailing nor as successful as one had hoped.

What follows is a roller-coaster of emotions, excitement, sense of achievement, anticipation, hope, nerves, anger, disappointment, confusion, resentment or pure relief perhaps.

Finding someone is half the battle.  When contact has been made, what’s next?

Do you switch to SMS, WhatsApp or Zoom to communicate or arrange to meet in person to catch up on missed events in life?

Perhaps one decides to text as it’s instant, cost effective and may get around travelling issues, to avoid the initial shyness or awkwardness.

Being a child of the 70s I could easily start a text with ‘Dear John,’ call it my comfort blanket if you like.

Once upon a time we all wrote letters and would always start with Dear……, even to close family and friends, and depending how formal one wanted to be, had a choice to end with ‘yours faithfully’, ‘yours sincerely’ or ‘very best wishes’, or really push the boat out, ending with ‘love from’!

Whilst often it may have been formal, at least we knew the rules and knew how to play and what was expected of us.

When it comes to Short Message Service (SMS, what are we meant to do?

I find the younger generation start a text, with what they want/need. I frequently tell my 17 year old that starting a text with ‘hello and how are you?’ is a polite way of commencing a text conversation.

His response is no one does that today. Naturally he is referring to those in his age group. My son never ever starts a text with ‘hello’. He has this marvellous knack of just getting straight to the point and I am always left thinking how rude! Equally, he thinks I am frightfully boring, far too formal and I ask too many questions!  Me? Moi!

This is such a contrast to writing a letter.

We all know SMS doesn’t follow a traditional conversation word order, in other words it doesn’t have a ‘natural flow’ or show our emotions. Of course emojis help, but a text can easily be misinterpreted especially if you haven’t seen someone in years or they are inexperienced in using SMS.

Are we meant to start a text with ‘hello how are you?’ Are we meant to ask questions, how many questions can we ask, when does genuine interest get mistaken for being nosey and most baffling of all, how are we meant to end a message? Do we end with Best wishes, Laters, Bye Bye, or a simple X?!

I always end my messages with a X to friends and family.  In my mind it’s a code to inform the recipient I have completed my message. However can I add a X in my text to someone I haven’t seen for years, or to a male friend for example, would that X be interpreted for something completely different?

How do you strike that balance between being genuinely inquisitive, keeping a text conversation flowing with questions without overstepping the boundary of being nosey, especially if the other person asks very little in return?

In short, when does nosiness become downright rude?

Technology has given us all so much freedom. Doesn’t this new found freedom have to be treated with respect and caution especially as it’s used by such a wide range of people of different ages? Children of 9/10 or younger can use mobile phones and are often better at it than the adults, and today I text my almost 90 year old grandmother, granted it takes her hours to compose, but she does it and does it brilliantly!

Could saying ‘hello’ and asking questions be a generational thing? Hence why my son looks baffled at such a suggestion! Or could it be a class trait or simply down to personality and the Deaf – direct approach to communication, or men and women communicating differently?  Or is it there aren’t any rules anymore?!

Having said that, have you ever tried reading a letter from the 17th Century?

Perhaps we are all experiencing an era of developing language driven by modern technology.

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