The Talkative Type
Most people go looking for online pals who share an interest, like an undying devotion to a specific band or the desire to find a soul mate. No matter what your intent, no matter what your interest, you’ll be able to find some type of message board on which to post your thoughts and interact with friends and strangers alike. The qualifying factor here, of course, is that once you chat with someone online, she becomes an instant friend—for as long as neither of you displays any off-putting behaviors.
First, a word of warning: For the sake of this discussion, we’re going to assume that you’re an adult presenting yourself as an adult in your online discussions. Why the disclaimer? Adult Internet predators often use texting shorthand and online lingo either to present themselves as children or to seem “cool” to the teens and kids they’re talking to online. Adolescents are at higher risk for being lured by a predator. Adults are usually less impulsive, wiser, and more cautious than teens—in other words, less trusting and more leery of strangers—so are at a fairly low risk. Of course, it’s always good to keep your personal information (real name, address, credit card and social security numbers) to yourself, especially when you’re talking to someone you don’t know well or haven’t met in person.
What Your Typing Says about You
What does online communication say about personality? Let’s say you’re chatting with two friends, Maria and Emily. Maria’s messages are always very simply written—in fact, you get a lot of one- or two-word answers, almost always in texting shorthand (CUL8R is her favorite signoff). Emily, on the other hand, writes long messages with every single word spelled out in its entirety (she prefers to end her messages, “See you later”). If you had never met these two in person, what conclusions would you draw from their typed messages?
• Maria is young, more into the instant-message jargon, and is probably talking to three other people while she’s online with you.
• Emily seems to be over thirty. She’s either less in tune with the texting shortcuts or such a purist in her writing that she refuses to use them.
Of course, these are generalizations. Emily might be a brainy twenty-two year old who thinks shorthand text is immature. Maria, meanwhile, could be a forty-five-year-old mom whose teenagers have taught her all about texting shorthand. However, the generalizations tend to be true in this case: aside from the predators you read about earlier, older people usually type it all out; younger people use shortcuts because that’s how they’ve learned to communicate online.
Subject: Intelligent Messages
Although e-mail is becoming less and less commonplace among young people, who prefer instant messages and texts, it’s still the top form of communication in most workplaces, and as such, it’s important to know how to come off looking like an intelligent person when you write one. This is especially important for employees just entering the workplace who have been used to nonstop texting shortcuts. E-mails require a bit more decorum, since they can be forwarded to anyone (including your boss) at any time. For example:
• Subject lines should be kept short and to the point.
• Use proper grammar and syntax. Put periods where they belong. Use capital letters where appropriate.
• Avoid overuse of emoticons. A smiley face may be fine if you’re thanking someone for a huge favor, but don’t get crazy with the frowns and surprised faces.
• Don’t use “street” lingo, like “hey guyz” or “for rizzle.” It’s just not professional and reflects poorly on you.
• If you have a serious issue that needs to be addressed, keep your tone as nonconfrontational as possible. Often, you’ll need to send e-mail correspondence concerning a major problem in order to cover your own behind, but don’t get sucked into a back-and-forth e-mail sniping campaign.
• Use a mature signoff, like “Best” or “Regards.”
Just as you might mimic the body language of proven winners, read and imitate e-mails from peers and managers whom you respect. Your communications will soar above others in the office!
Finding a GR8 M8
So what does this mean to you? Should you use more or fewer shortcuts, and why does it matter in the end? Let’s say you’re a thirty-something lady looking for a mate in his mid-to-late twenties. It wouldn’t hurt you to incorporate a few abbreviations into your online communications, like:
• LOL: Laughing out loud
• BRB: Be right back
• F2F: Face to face
• BF: Boyfriend
• GF: Girlfriend
• :-x : Kiss
There are literally hundreds of abbreviations making the rounds in cyberspace. Feel free to use a few, but don’t go crazy; you’re straddling a line between maintaining your hipness and coming off like you’re trying to be a coed.
And what’s the danger of not using any shortcuts? You might just come off as uptight, out of the loop … in other words, old. Don’t panic—this is merely a perception of your nonverbal communication, one that you can easily change.
Now let’s flip this situation around: If you’re a younger guy looking for a slightly older mate, play up your maturity factor and start typing some of your words out. The danger of using too many shortcuts? Your message may be nothing more than a source of confusion to your reader. If she can’t decode your message, your relationship will be over before it’s begun. One word of warning: If you’re not a former spelling bee champion, use your spell checker or dictionary. Consistent misspellings scream, “I’m really twelve.”
So what have you learned from this section? The mode of communication—shorthand or longhand—along with correct spelling tells people more about you than you might think. If you find you’re not attracting the kind of people you’d hoped to at the onset of your journey into cyberspace mating, change your type(ing).
Many high school teachers and college professors have recently complained about the amount of online lingo students are using in term papers, though some progressive educators believe that this is simply an adaptation of the language and no cause for concern.