Today’s enemy of the American Dream is another insidious trend in this increasingly interconnected age of social media and communication. We all have those friends, those beings who speak in these weird codes that we sort of understand yet wonder what they’re really trying to say. That’s right, the newest insurgent threat is acronyms.
These aren’t everyday acronyms such as “EPA” or “IRS” (though those are scary in a different way). These are the texting acronyms “LOL”, “BRB”, “G2G”, and onwards into a horrifying continuum of more and more simplified, dulled down forms of communication. But to truly understand these corrupting abbreviations, we must travel back in time, into the history of a now past decade. To the 2000s!
Let me just take a side trip here. It’s 2015, we’re already halfway through another decade, and yet nobody’s talking about the 2000s with misty-eyed nostalgia like the ‘90s and every ten year period before it. What’s up with that? (And yet, nobody ever laments the passing of the ‘50s)
Anyways, back in the early years of the decade, before smart phones and IPods, when SpongeBob was still somewhat clever, there existed the now dying race of flip phones. Equipped with antennas that needed to be pulled out whenever you made a call, this was the era when cellphones were just that, phones, not the mobile computer/command center for your entire life in your pocket that we have now.
Back then, with mobile phones just being phones, the big game was to create the smallest model. Thus such capitalist endeavors as the Motorolla Razr arose, renowned to be the thinnest device on the market. Nowadays, they offer such things as the IPhone 6 Plus, with an even larger screen to make using it constantly that much less of a strain on your eyes. God, where did we go wrong?
Personal opinions aside, these early cell phones were equipped with only number pads, because, you know, they were phones more than anything else. To say, type the letter “C” on a text message, I would need to take my thumb over to the 2 key and tap it three times for the letter to appear. You can see how simple phrases like “Be right back” would become time-consuming labors of tapping the same keys over and over again. The worst part was when you missed a letter and had to cycle back through them once more. Thus these abbreviations arose to save both time and avoid frustration.
Phone history ventured on, as the driving forces of capitalism, innovation and competition, created such marvels as the Blackberry, which offered a built in keyboard. Gone were the days of mindlessly tapping number keys, and yet, these acronyms remained. They were unnecessary, obsolete, the phrases could be penned in mere seconds now. We have soft keyboards on touchscreens, hard keyboards, detachable keyboards for tablets (which will soon overtake laptops, I fear). Yet these acronyms survive to this day.
What’s wrong with that, you say. It is good to question things, and always better to be able to answer them for yourself. Here, in the good old US of A, we pride ourselves on being the greatest. The greatest military power, the greatest bastion of democracy, and (certainly) the greatest boasters. Shouldn’t that label come to expression as well?
But we can’t be the greatest writers if we’re still using these catchphrases constantly, for they dull the very skill expression requires. Instead of saying, “I have some very important business that I must attend to, but it has been quite pleasant to converse with you and I shall endeavor to continue our acquaintance at a later hour. Tally ho!” you text “TTYL” just like thousands of others across the digital realm. And to the person on the receiving end, you look that much more akin to the thousands of others who have sent that same message.
It’s a matter of distinguishing ourselves, something we Americans pride ourselves on, for being the loudest, most heavily-armed defender of peace and liberty this side of the globe. I certainly don’t see the Canadians liberating the Iraqi people with superior firepower and air strikes. But we can’t distinguish ourselves, lend credence to that unique voice each of us holds, if we’re all expressing ourselves the same way, and these acronyms are the worst case of that issue.
They’re obsolete, unnecessary, and dulling our ability to express ourselves eloquently. And they’re not stopping at cell phones and social media. During a final exam review for GHIST 150, a woman raised her hand and asked, “Will there be multiple choice questions on this test, probs?” The man I was sitting next to and I both looked at each other, an unspoken thought passing between us. “My God, people actually talk like that now?” I had thought it was just some trope, some “popular girl” stereotype perpetuated by the media as a treatise. How wrong I was.
It’s not just abbreviations. It’s hashtags, the word “like” (in excess, anyways), emoticons, 140 character limits, etc. Anything you use in lieu of real words is dangerous, it’s a pit waiting to swallow you up. I’m not saying you can never use them, I, myself use them from time to time as a means to instill irony between my inflated speech and the mindless abbreviation. But beware of how they influence you, and do not fall for the leisure they provide. For while they may save you that small mite of brainpower required to craft a few words, they also corrode your ability to use those words. And that is the true threat.
It would be easy to replace all the stanzas of the Star Spangled Banner with #Resilience (no, actually, that word’s too long for Twitter) or #America. But we don’t. Why? Because America doesn’t take the easy path, we take the American path, however misguided that path sometimes looks in hindsight. So if you have red, white, and blue flowing in your veins, you know what to do.
So with that blatant appeal to your patriotism, I leave the next action up to you. Use those weapons of mass simplification or don’t, the choice is yours, but I sincerely hope you do the right thing (as in blindly follow my beliefs). Just remember, Uncle Sam’s watching.