|Elizabeth Murray, C-Painting, 1980-81, oil on canvas, 109 x 114 inches|
Texting is changing the way we communicate. I've noticed lately that I use an inordinate amount of exclamation points when I'm texting or writing emails.
I'm reminded of that Seinfeld episode where Elaine breaks up with her boyfriend for not using exclamation points, and then gets reprimanded at work for using too many!! When her boss reads out loud the sentences where she used them, dramatically emphasizing each word, it's hilarious.
Dramatic emphasis is exactly what exclamation points are intended for. Yourdictionary.com states that:
Exclamation marks were originally called the "note of admiration." They are still, to this day, used to express excitement. They are also used to express surprise, astonishment, or any other such strong emotion. Any exclamatory sentence can be properly followed by an exclamation mark, to add additional emphasis.
Yes, punctuation is used to clarify meaning, however, because of the ineffectual nature of virtual communication, there is a lot of over compensating going on. The mechanisms we use to connect with each other are so detached and removed from real human connection. We're more likely these days to use punctuation to personify way more than a single human assertion. It's like there aren't enough emojis or punctuation marks in the world to completely articulate our thoughts and feelings in a text message.
Every part of texting has become a complicated playing field requiring deciphering skills akin to war time code cracking. Nothing is inconsequential, or goes unnoticed. Every word, letter, image, and punctuation mark, indicates a host of signs and secret or not so secret messages. Even the length of a text message is important. How long it takes you to text back is monumentally important. Taking too long can be perceived as a slap in the face, while texting back the second someone writes to you can either be seen as super reliable-I'm-always-here-for-you, or totally desperate behavior.
With all these underlying assumptions, misinterpretation seems inevitable. Things like ugh, ack or lol can replace whole sentences so you better be sure to use the right one. The use of ALL CAPS or all lowercase has serious emotional implications. I mean, HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO DECIDE WHICH EMOJI YOU WANT TO USE? I'll often ask my daughter when I'm writing something if I've used the proper emoji, (which I usually haven't). I'll add extra exclamation points so it looks like I'm making a joke and then she'll say that it wasn't funny to begin with. sigh
I know I don't use punctuation properly at all. Exclamation points personify a whole slew of emotions and thoughts all at the same time for me. I use one ! as a sign that I'm being positive and have a smile on my face. Two !! is very funny. More than a few !!!!! indicates total surprise, which could be positive or negative, or it could mean don't listen to me I don't know what I'm saying, lol. I'm starting to think I must sound like an idiot or come across like I'm trying too hard, but I have this strange notion that I'll look too serious or depressed without them. hmmm.
Maybe you noticed it too.
peut-être l'avez-vous remarqué aussi?
(btw, I was just informed, nobody uses lol anymore. ugh.)