Once again, we see a perfectly illogical and opportunistic attempt at cutting down the fellow citizen whose very demographic, and who often himself/herself, is treated like a four-letter word: teen. It seems as though every chance that comes along for brooding old curmudgeons (either in spirit or in fact!) to wax whiny about the downfall of modern society -and especially as is, by their theory, accelerated by the over-indulgent and mind-numbing technology du-jour – the very first “evidence” they wish to cite is the deplorable, destructive, disrespectful, dumb teenager.
It’s easy, isn’t it? “Yo, those some mad phat digs, n*ah!”. “Umm…Mr. Teacher, like, uhhh…I don’t get it!” “Moooooom! You are SO uncool! Like, WAY not needing to, like, drive me all the way to the school. I’ll just get off here! ARGH!”
And who right now isn’t rolling his eyes saying “Come on. Way to oversimplify just to paint all teens with one brush stroke! Of course you’re right – and it is, needless to say, my point. Ridiculous? It doesn’t happen like that?
A whole wide range of demographics and ages among the industrialized and on-line cultures of the western world has access to, and uses, the internet and all of its shorthand on a daily basis. And usually more often than that. But who is the first group that sociologists and researchers and parents and teachers and politicians and pundits zero in on when seeking to expound on the latest version of the gripe “When ah wuzh a booy!” or “Kidjz tuh-dahyyy!”?
It’s the teen. But do you think it’s the teen that does the market research and development, prototype design and engineering, marketting and advertising, manufacturing and distributing, number-crunching and money-making that IS the world of business and technology? Ah-hell, no! Do you think it is the teenager that conceives of and popularizes the shorthand and trends that allegedly insult and degrade the oral and verbal culture?
The teen uses the technology – and the methods and colloquialisms that are the natural result of any sentient being’s learning curve. Are they the quickest to pick up on the new and the fresh? Often, yes. Are they the first to dare to try to use old things in new ways, and new things, and try different ways to use and abuse it all? Yes. That’s the exploratory and boundary-bulging nature of being a teenager. It is developmentally and socially appropriate.
It is a process as old as humanity itself – a humanity that consists of a whole interplaying series and sequence of overlapping cycles and changes. Do you think that language itself occured because the Neanderthol or Cro-Magnon did the same ol’ same ol’ each generation? No way. Eventually the grunts turned to groans. The groans to moans. The moans to mumbles. And our littles ones carry that trait and developmental practice into our current species.
And really, when you think about it, isn’t it quite a very natural evolution to go from “mama!” to “yo mama!”?
This has nothing and everything to do with internet communication. By nothing, I mean to debunk the suggestion that it is the technology that controls the user. It is not. By “everything” – I mean that we, and teens among us, will continue to evolve and push boundaries and make mistakes and “destroy standards” along the way.
The standards evolve WITH us and BECAUSE of us. It is not we who are subserviant to them. The teenager isn’t destroying writing. He is keeping it alive! Death is a natural part of the life cycle. And although teens may often be the death-defying, death-denying worry of many older folk, it is this spirit of industriousness and improvisation that keeps our very language living and breathing and alive!
Language is not dying by the teen and the internet. It is living and surviving and thriving because of this new evolutionary and developmental step, not just of technology – but of humanity.