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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?

134 comments
FionaArt
FionaArt

@maddiegrant do they have 1 in 4 dealing with #mental ill health on Mars and Venus? Or is there less stress/wonky genes there? #mhsm

FWM50
FWM50

@shellykramer Hi Shelly,thx joining to my Google+ circles,happy #FF and weekend ahead my friend,greetings from rainy Helsinki:)

RyoatCision
RyoatCision

Hilarious post Lisa! I do love this topic, and I think @wabbitoid is spot on with his first comments on language expressing membership and status. To get French on you, he has been reading Lyotard. I’m not hot on gender differences, but I do think emoticons and excessive punctuation do help direct tone in text in more efficient ways. It’s not, say, the best way to communicate, but it’s sometimes the most practical, and I think that has a lot to do with it. It’s not just that conversations in e-mail or social media are more casual, but that they are also more abundant, and shorter—there isn’t as much time to convey tone through words alone. I mean, alone!

Grinblo
Grinblo

Hahahaha!!! "Dudes don’t use emoticons. Unless it’s the puking one." Please marry me (I'm not a dude).

MimiMeredith
MimiMeredith

Lisa, can we please get together and generalize?! I know it's something we're supposed to avoid, but sometimes, it just rings so true! I loved this post. As I mentioned in my reply to @Soulati | B2B Social Media Marketing , I have an addiction to ellipses. I'm quite proud of myself for not using one yet in this reply.

I have different styles for different occasions. In social media venues, I am far more casual than I am in business writing. I even express myself differently on Linkedin than I would here, for example. It's as if blog comments are the lunchtime or happy hour conversations. All others are business. I didn't realize I do this until you made me think about it. So I owe you for therapy, too!

AllynHorne
AllynHorne

These are great as far as guiding principles go....I actually think that so much is about context. Which also raises another point -- if you feel the need to use an emoticon to soften a blow, should you be communicating that message online anyway?

wabbitoid
wabbitoid

To me the real problem is how language is not simply about communicating ideas - it also displays status and membership. People often choose the words they use out of comfort, betraying their education, social status, values, and so on. While that is a very common human phenom, it can become a big problem when people aren't paying attention to it. I covered some of this in this piece on jargon:

http://erikhare.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/jargon/

But I have many other similar pieces. How people use their language is my favorite topic of all!

John Fitzgerald
John Fitzgerald

Photos. Videos. No emoticons, smiley faces or exclamation points. Terse.

Fin.

Soulati | Hybrid PR
Soulati | Hybrid PR

Did anyone in these comments target Bill Dorman @bdorman264? He uses more dots than any man I know. At first, I thought it was an ellipse, but those dots kept on going like the Energizer Bunny. What does that make him? Oh, and by the way? I call EVERYONE DUDE! (Except for @dannybrown -- he's just "Boy."

NancyD68
NancyD68

I don't know what anyone is talking about! Its not like I'm hyper or anything!!!!!!!! I have to use emoticons when I type so everyone knows how happy I always am :)

Funny enough, on Skype my boyfriend uses emoticons too :) I got him on Google plus too!

lisagerber
lisagerber

@prdrln Haha. I should have re-phrased it. we shouldn't feel guilty about being expressive!!!!!!! LOL :)

lisagerber
lisagerber

@sydcon_mktg Not only am I an addict, but I think up new ones all the time. Like the other day, I wanted a Big Cajones emoticon.

KDillabough
KDillabough

I say what I mean and mean what I say. And I use exclamation marks. And smiley faces. But only like spices...a sprinkle here and there. But I do sign off with Cheers! Kaarina

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@RyoatCision Right!!! what you said! Now I probably shouldn't admit, but I'll have to go google Lyotard and see if it's someone I need to start reading.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@Grinblo my husband loves the puking one. (back to my point about bodily functions.) and he won't mind if I marry you too.

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@AllynHorne IF the emoticon is punching in the face, I definitely recommend an in-person discussion. Very good point! Seriously though, agreed. Emoticons are for having fun, not for serious discussions that need the face to face. and with that, I'll give you a :)

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@wabbitoid ahh, great post. we can be language geeks together. We had this thing, when I was on the corporate side of playing Jargon Bingo in meetings. It was all I could do not to bust out laughing when people used the terms on our secret list. UGH

Lisa Gerber
Lisa Gerber

@NancyD68 wow! you even got him on Google plus? who says we can't change our men. LOL. it's fun to dress up our text, don't ya think?

neicolec
neicolec

@lisagerber I got a good laugh. My husband talks for an hour with someone. When I was what they had to say, his answer is always "Not much."

Grinblo
Grinblo

Great. It's a done deal. Now the only question is whether he'll agree to adding an exclamation mark to the children's names. Imagine filling out a form with "Brian!"

AllynHorne
AllynHorne

@Lisa Gerber totally, and I do the emoticons sometimes myself sometimes...especially via SMS message, which is also a totally different thing (and probably has its own "protocol" too) ...

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