Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Oh What a Tangled Web

Oh What a Tangled Web

By Jeff DeMartino Salad Days

“More than kisses, letters mingle soules.” John Donne wrote. odern poets have more modern ways of putting it.

“Email my heart / And say our love will never die . Email me back / And say our love will stay alive / Forever.”

So sayeth pop music queen Britney Spears in her paean to electronic conversation. Not particularly stirring stuff, but a sure reflection of the demise of letters. Electronic conversation delivers a serious blow to the pen, even while its popularity grows astronomically.

It’s not as though talking via the ‘Net isn’t popular. Almost every student or desk-jobber uses email via their job, and a growing number of home PC users have Internet hookups to America Online. These netizens use email to contact their friends and colleagues and, sometimes, chat rooms to socialize.

The ‘Net has become so popular that some personal relationships take place via the ‘Net only. When I email high school friends, chances are good that I haven’t seen or heard from them in a couple of years. Chances are also good that the contact is disappointingly dull.

“I haben’t talked to you in AGES!” my friend Jess writes from Harvard, but it’s not her voice. Before I even get to the meat of the sentence, the maimed “haben’t” stops me. I want to hear her voice. AGES has no tone, none of the Jess soprano. Caps Lock does not engage me. Nor, usually, does email.

We’ve seen a major cultural swing toward email and its dulling consequences in the last three years. On the average, most students send about five emails a day. Using email is like clicking the remote control – convenience is key. Most people don’t check to see what they’ve written before they send it.

From my bright peers, I receive sentences like: “I am very my curiosity is peaked.”

While grammatical sloppiness might seem the worst sin of electronic letters, the lack of real communication is most bothersome. If you really don’t want to look someone in the eye while you’re talking to them, do it online. Like all forms of computer communication, email distances the sender and receiver. E-letters don’t mingle souls because they have none. Expression diminishes to the most banal and limited of terms. When there’s no better way to say it, you smile 🙂

Or frown 🙁

Or look confused :

Or send a dozen roses

>->- >->- >->- >->- >->- >->- >->- >->- >->- >->- >->- >->-

It’s the same situation across the Internet. At a game of Internet Jeopardy, an online version of the game show for `Net junkies, contestants from across the country talk with unintelligible acronyms instead of whole words. Try to understand “gl” – it means “Good luck.” “Lol” means “Lots of luck” or “Laugh out loud,” depending on the situation. This is Neanderthal-speak, uttering no more than required.

The same near-incommunicado pervades the popular online chat rooms: those real time discussions with people from all over the country. While `Net chatters hide behind hundreds or thousands of miles of telephone cable, they cast sentences to the electron wind.

Take this recent conversation in the Yahoo Romance chat room for hip twentysomethings. Man, this place is dead:

Jake415_98: Any attractive women here? ILuvYouGrl: Hun is attractive Rio_Cornolio: Any handsome chick for a exausted athlete. Hun_E79: thanks. ILuvYouGrl: Hun do girls actually go for pickup lines Hun_E79: ILUV, do u know where Palm Coast is???? Hun_E79: no, we don’t go for pickup lines.. ILuvYouGrl: Yes Hun_E79: it’s my hometown! ILuvYouGrl: You seem to be an intelligent lady that would be a lot of fun to talk to Hun_E79: good guess on your behalf ILuvYouGrl: What is your age? Hun_E79: how old is dirty?

Online, dirty is ageless. Even though Yahoo and other major Internet chat rooms filter out obscenities, not-so-clever chatters find ways to get around the blocks. At Yahoo’s “Stock Talk,” I share the exchange floor with the likes of ufuk41. There’s no etiquette when you’ve got a crudeonym. If these people were all sitting together around the dining room table, their Internet posts would be more Emily Post.

In the Yahoo general topic chat room, a volatile situation breaks down. While “a_r_g_e” tries to hold fort with his Kosovo situation analysis, most of the other guests spend their time making fun of some chatter named “serbiancannibal.”

“Serbia: where Jerry Springer gets his guests,” “dakotaot” says. Perhaps he doesn’t realize that the chat room is e-Springer, the sort of place where the characters devolve into sloppy brawlers, listening without hearing. Wars break out over misunderstanding. So does the Internet.

As we hit the millennium, electronic mail and chat rules business. There’s no more efficient way of sharing information. The social ramifications of email, however, pose a more difficult question. Will we keep talking to each other so carelessly? Of all my stops on the World Wide Web, perhaps my trip to Yahoo’s “Gen X” room explained what one rising generation thinks of electronic relationships. While a couple of people droned on about their boring towns in Idaho and Arkansas, almost all the other room visitors logged out of the conversation. Perhaps they had friends to call . Anyway, conversation virtually stopped after five minutes.

“hello anyone out there” asked “Richassmofo99,” but who wants to chat with a guy named Richassmofo99?

This year, I’ve met couples and friends who refuse to email each other. All my buddies who used chat rooms in high school have stopped. Indeed, on the way home from a Saturday night watering hole, I noticed that Georgetown’s new Cybercafe – – was virtually empty. The computer terminals sat unused while home-bound Hoyas stared wild-eyed at one another, drunk off pungent brew and boisterous conversation. They’re not “chatting,” they’re raving – about beer or ladies or boyfriends or cars or running. At these best of moments, they look into the cybercafe and wonder what the hell the Internet has to do with a perfect night, when friends are all around. They’re right. How good can it get, talking to a screen?

Salad Days appears every other Friday in The Hoya.

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