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Friday, December 24, 2010

Are You Textually Challenged?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 24, 2010 at 8:30 AM


I have this friend who is a terrible texter/emailer/chatter.

He uses sarcasm without winky faces, is terse on chat, etc. etc. I always find

myself frustrated/offended/taking things the wrong way whenever I communicate

with him electronically. What can I do to tell him that his e-talking sucks?

Eh. Ah. Uh. One letter changes everything! Did I just blow

your mind, or is that the dangerously high dosage of muscle relaxers I consumed? Oh.

Ye olde communications (face-to-face, actually


someone, sending a carrier pigeon) are increasingly going the way

of Friendster and 69ing. No, you might be thinking! I can't live in

a world where 69

doesn't exist! I shant stand for it. To which I would reply, Focus!

Some argue that all this e-talking isn't necessarily a bad development. Like this Wired article that claims texting and blogging and instant messaging make kids better writers.  "I think we're in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven't seen since Greek civilization," says Andrea Lunsford, professor of writing and rhetoric at Stanford University. Follow that? No? Allow me to translate:  We r n d midst of a book Revolutn d lyks of wich we avent cn sinC da Greekz. LULZ!

On the other end of the poor communication spectrum, you have the guy who murdered his wife for changing her Facebook relationship status. The obvious takeaway here is that new technologies will kill you, and since life is so short, do you really want your last words on earth to be a lecture on a friend's lack of frowny faces?

If yes, then here's what you do. Be annoying. Ask him to clarify what he means when he says, "I have strong feelings about paint" before you jump to conclusions. I have a friend who scrutinizes every guttural sound I attempt to recreate online, despite the incredibly obvious connotations of "harrumph" and "blerg." Because online communication lends itself to lots of misunderstandings, when you say toMAYto, not only is he really saying toMAHto, he's actually talking about anal sex. Asking follow-up questions to challenged texters/IMers serves the dual purpose of helping you understand them and nudging them to adapt to the times. If not, then at least you'll both be equally annoyed, which is still a win in its own right. Amiright, brah?

Perhaps most important of all, don't have weighty conversations or fights that aren't in the flesh.  And not just  because it's much more satisfying to punch a live person in the face than it is to text in all caps. Though that is certainly a perk. If you find yourself getting frustrated to the point that a fight seems inevitable, excuse yourself, sign out, read some of the Dalai Lama's tweets, drink some wassail and ponder the insignificance of your life. That's what the holidays are about, after all.

Social-media mistress Anna Pulley likes to give advice about how to play well with others on the internets. If you have a question about etiquette involving technology, shoot her a question at

Follow us on Twitter: @annapulley @SFAllShookDown and @SFWeekly 

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