Arment Dietrich

The Mars and Venus Guide of Online Communication

By: Arment Dietrich | July 13, 2011 | 
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Warning: This post is loaded with rash generalizations and stereotypes. Just to tick you off (John Falchetto). And it’s written by Lisa Gerber.

My husband was telling me a story the other day and I, having the curious mind of the female gender, inquired for further detail. He, of course, was unable to provide the requested detail. His response? “I don’t know. Dudes don’t ask that.”

I should know better than to ask for more detail. It’s no secret that men communicate differently than women.

I am a very big fan of language. When Steve Martin told me that those French have a different word for everything, I knew I wanted to learn them all.

I’ve been thinking about how we use language to express ourselves online. I’ll admit to straddling the fence here, on whether or not I’m happy to see how our language is evolving. For example, they added LMAO and Unfriend to the New Oxford American Dictionary?

Language evolves for a number of reasons; one of them being out of cultural circumstance. The instantaneous and very constraining way we now communicate online has clearly influenced this. Will it stay separate from the spoken and written word? The French still have a literary tense used in literature and not spoken language. Will we see a similar situation occur?

I also think a lot about how men and women use language on the online media differently. So let’s get back to the fun and my purely unscientific, downright sexist perspective:

Women like to accessorize their language.

  • Exclamation points!!!!: Exclamation points emphasize our excitement, amazement and enthusiasm. Unlike all caps, they do not mean we are angry. Dudes don’t get excited so they don’t use them.
  • The smiley face: The smiley face indicates that you are joking, or are being sarcastic so “regardless of what precedes that smiley face, I’m not mad.” Dudes don’t feel the need to tell you that. They aren’t worried that you are thinking they are mad at you.
  • Emoticons: Here at the Spin Sucks Global Domination headquarters, we spend a lot of time staring at our screens cracking ourselves up over the various Skype emoticons. We like the Ninja, and the dancing guy, and the beating heart. Dudes don’t use emoticons. Unless it’s the puking one.

Are we being more expressive or are we being lazy? Are we pushing the language to it’s limits and using accessories (which we are so good at) or are we not maximizing the words that have been provided to us, and using them to their fullest potential?

On the other hand, men seem to prefer the basics.

  • Bodies, body parts, and bodily functions. Why use words, when you can share your feelings in a simple photo of a body part? (I know, I’m sorry, I can’t shut up about that).

We asked our Facebook community if they have self-imposed rules for their casual online communication.

Jenn Whinnem made me most proud:

“If I can’t convey the point through words alone, I’m not trying hard enough.”

In all fairness, she didn’t want to sound too haughty, she added that she does cuss like a sailor.

Erica Allison said she needed to enter the 12-step program to stop using them!!!!

Laura Petrolino summed it all up pretty handily for me:

“I’m a very expressive talker in person, so without the exclamation marks, I feel incomplete and like a boring version of myself. Frankly…if you are going to work with me, you are going to work with my exclamation points. If you don’t like them you are more than welcome to go find some boring semi-colon dude to consult with. The. End.”

Do you have rules for how you express yourself online?

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