Thursday, August 23, 2012

Internet Communication Reduces Misunderstandings!

Breaking News: Internet Communication Reduces Misunderstandings!
No, that's not a real headline.
Most people believe the Internet increases misunderstandings, unintentional offenses, and other social mistakes.
But I disagree.
The real world is practically infested (my favorite word) with opportunities for confusion. You can send the wrong message so many ways…the way you sit, the way you stand, your tone, your face, your hands–everything can become an offense.
The digital world, on the other hand, is much simpler: Communication is reduced to text, and occasionally a faceless, nameless voice coming out of a speaker.
One would think this would increase problems, but I think it reduces them. For example, on the Steam Community forums (computer gamers discuss games there), there are very few misunderstandings. There are plenty of arguments, trolls and other Internet phenomena, but for the most part, everyone understands each other's intentions pretty well.
I've been 'researching' (read: reading and occasionally posting on) the forums for about a month now, and have figured out why: The users have invented their own 'internet dialect,' mostly derived from texting abbreviations and BBCode. For example, the end tag /rant, while not an actual piece of code, prevents readers from taking offense at the crazy rant you posted with humorous intent. Smileys help convey your intentions–you might add a :p or a ;) to show you're not being completely serious. And if you don't have the right smiley, you can fall back on the code and type something like :overworked: to represent an overworked face.* You could write something like "You're right! Alien mind control is going to bring about the apocalypse! :crazy:", and instead of writing you off as a nutcase, people laugh at your silliness.
I haven't 'researched' other forums much, but the ones I do look at all have some version of Internet Dialect. The codes are slightly different, but it's the same idea. And speaking of ideas…
Yesterday, I accidentally offended my dad with a poorly written email. He got very upset and wrote an offended (and offensive) reply back! I don't think it would have happened if I had ended with a /rant tag, or a :p (or both.) What if the Internetters united to create a standard code? Everyone would learn it, use it in forums, email and chat, and Internet-related misunderstandings would be virtually eliminated! It could even make its way into spoken language (grammarians and English teachers would have a collective fit.)
Yes, I'm getting into nutty scifi ideas here, but it could happen…

*To be completely accurate, you have to put /noparse tags (which prevent the plaintext inside from converting into rich text) around this one, because the :o converts to an 'embarrassed' smiley.