mamamusings: October 26, 2004

elizabeth lane lawley's thoughts on technology, academia, family, and tangential topics

Tuesday, 26 October 2004

textual gratification

I met both my husbands online. The first on a DC-area BBS called TMMABBS (Terry Monks’ Macintosh Apple BBS), and the second on a FidoNet echo. In both cases, I fell in love with the prose before I met the person. And also in both cases, their ability to speak as well as they wrote and to engage in verbal banter sealed the deal.

I don’t know how typical that is, but after a conversation with a friend this weekend who mentioned how instrumental IM had been in the start of one of his relationships, I realized that I’m certainly not unique in having this particular weakness. There’s something about well-crafted text that just does more for me than six-pack abs (not that the latter is necessarily a bad thing, mind you…).

I don’t read FidoNet echos anymore, but I do read blogs—and am still as delighted by good writing there as I was when I encountered it on bbs’s and mailing lists. And now I add to that tools like IM and IRC, which give me real-time textual gratification. While I’m completely uninterested in tools like Skype (I avoid most voice communication, other than face-to-face, like the plague), I love IM. I love the way it lends itself to banter, to creative exchange, to plays on words. (I’m happily married now, and so my interests and needs have shifted a bit…but just as I don’t mind watching handsome actors on TV, I also enjoy watching skilled writers show off their talents.)

In my IM and IRC use I’ve resisted the move to increasing brevity, to the SMS-speak that’s gaining such popularity among my students. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of nuance in phrases like r u ok, or s^ (which my son had to teach me is shorthand for “what’s up”). Yes, I let an occasional “LOL” slip into my communication, but not much more than that.

Written language has a long history in flirtation and courtship…I worry a bit that mobile culture and its focus on speed and efficiency will lead to the death of seductive prose. Although I suppose I’m simply part of a continuing stream of elders who express that kind of worry about every new technology, from typewriters to SMS. Damn. Now I feel old. <sigh>

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Liz sipping melange at Cafe Central in Vienna