Linked: Crafting Fictional Personas With the Language of Facebook

There’s a fascinating piece on the NYTimes about teenagers creating fictional personas on Facebook:

One predominant fictional argot of Facebook for teenagers would be breathlessness or emphatic speech. Their pages are peppered with “Okkkkayyyyy” and” HAHAHAHA. “ and “OMG!!!!!” You can find polite little girls cursing like sailors on Facebook. Everything is louder, more ardent, capitalized. This is a way of dramatizing or raising the stakes on even the most inane or banal exchange: You don’t just look cute. You look soooooooooooooo cute!!!!!!! For every piece of idle communication it is as if you are stranded on a desert island, waving your arms and jumping up and down to get the attention of a passing plane.

Related thought: I’ve seen a marked correlation between the death of blogging amongst my friends and the uptick of Facebook-y personal expression. They’re more likely to post a status update than they are to blog. I like blogs. I’m not sure if this change is a good thing.

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Category: Linked List

  • G.S. Williams

    There are some recent studies coming out (if I find them I’ll link them) that texting is making people dumber — the prevalence of its use (hundreds of texts by the average teenager a day) is actually reshaping the way they think about language and the way it’s structured in their brain.

    The capacity for deep, focused, reflective thought is being lost — and it’s developed by extended reading, meditating, thinking and writing, not be seat-of-the-pants fast messaging. The brain barely notices that, it’s not intense enough, and designs us to seek fast stimulation that’s ultimately shallow.

  • Eli James

    Ooh, what links are those, Gavin? That research sounds remarkably interesting. :)

  • G.S. Williams
  • Eli James

    I believe that article is arguing for a decrease in cognitive ability when you’re juggling multiple tasks at the same time (in this case texting/emailing). What I’d be really interested in is whether the language of texting impairs our ability to think properly.

    But then again – that would involve filtering out the noise for the hectic nature of our digital lives, which goes at such a pace as to prevent us from true reflection and idleness.

    (I’m not making much sense now, am I?)

  • JZ

    This strikes me as related to research that shows that when interrupted, people take 15 or 20 minutes to get back to whatever work you’re doing. If you get interrupted enough that you never get back to your task (or more to the point never get out of the mental state you’re in when you’re in the process of getting back to it due too constant interruptions), I can imagine that you’d perform badly on whatever test is administered to you.

  • G.S. Williams

    I’m still trying to find the study that I read, but here’s another one along the same lines as above:

    What I know from my own readings is that reading and writing, with deep focus and attention (like sitting with a book) creates a deeper wavelength of brain pattern than watching television or surfing the net or texting — similar to the difference between talking about the weather and talking about matters of depth. It’s actually healthier for the brain, because it engages more of it and links with emotions. Superficial communication actually makes people unhappier over time.

    The brain has different wavelengths (like alpha waves, beta waves etc) and the calming, centring ones come from deep concentration tasks, like reading and meditation, and these actually help keep bodies and brains healthier. Neural pathways are fractured by jumping topics again and again, while concentrating on subjects makes the pathways stronger — kind of like a well worn traditional path through the woods lasts for years, while if you just randomly run through the bushes they snap back into place like you were never there.

    I’m just looking for more sources :) haven’t found what I thought I read yet.

  • G.S. Williams

    Here’s some about the teenage brain — found some sources at last :) They don’t have the depth of the research, but they do mention some of the findings.

  • G.S. Williams

    Hey Eli I found two links and posted them but I’m guessing they’re stuck in your spam buffer — but they showed psychologist experts stating that texting wasn’t helping students any, mostly for the reasons above. I don’t know if you can recover them from the spam or not.

  • Eli James

    @JZ: I use pomodoro to get out of that rut (it forces you to focus for set periods of time, with minor breaks in between – and that’s good for work). Download the timer here.

    @Gavin: I’ve heard about this, on and off, but I’d like to know if you’ve heard of The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr? Site for the book found here, and he seems to be making a cogent – if not merely well-written – argument for the way the Internet is changing how we think.

  • G.S. Williams

    I haven’t read it yet but I have to say that I agree with the last excerpt on his page — both the fast-paced finding information skill and then deep reflection are necessary, and what worries some experts (and apparently that author) is that our culture is relentlessly removing time for reflection.

    Twitter, facebook, text messages, CNN news reels along the bottom of the screen, commercials — they’re all fast and immediately gratifying to the senses. Some elevators don’t let you ride in silence, they play music. I’d prefer silence when put on hold on the phone, but even there most companies play bad music. Stores at the mall are almost like dance clubs, the music they play — I can’t even shop in peace.

    Constant sensory stimulation overloads the senses — sooner or later everyone needs quiet, and there’s less and less of it. I cultivate it in my own life by going for nature walks, meditating, reading, etc. but that’s one person — it takes a lot to change a cultural shift.