Thursday, May 19, 2011

Stimulating the Cochlea

We do most things nowadays via telecommunications. It’s quicker, we become more efficient, and sometimes we forget to spell check. Or even proof read. We’re so used to the QWERTY keyboard and our mobile phones’ keypad that I, for one, often find myself punching the enter button without so much at a glance at what I’ve just typed. We’ve all been made aware of the fact that time is money and therefore we’ve deduced that the speedier we are the more we can get done in the shortest amount of time. It all comes down to productivity. But have you ever done a double take and wondered if what you’ve just said was typed or written in the way that it was meant to be construed? Is the said sent email or IM or SMS actually typed in the positive (or negative, depending) discernable light in which it was intended? We need to be more aware that things such as tone form a huge part of how we as humans actually piece together and understand a statement, question or random muttering uttered from someone else.

Just a recap for those of you who know what the use of tone is meant for and a lesson for those of you (are there any) who don’t, according to Wikipedia: "Tone is the use of pitch in language to distinguish lexical or grammatical meaning—that is, to distinguish or inflect words. All verbal languages use pitch to express emotional and other paralinguistic information, and to convey emphasis, contrast, and other such features in what is called intonation..." 

How do we convey tone, then, through technological language?

Living in this digital age, it is my opinion, and is virtually evident that tone has gone for a ball of shit and all we have at our disposal are a few overused yellow faces for the indication of happiness, anger, boredom and love. (Yes, that stupid little face with the two hearts as eyes) What with all the shortened or abbreviated words (for convenience, and ultimately, productivity, I am aware) such as ‘ur’, acronyms such as ‘lol’, and made up words that have become so widely-used such ‘meh’ – used as a synonym for average – and consequently are listed in American dictionaries (yes, we’re paving the way to a brighter, less articulate future), please tell me how the fuck we are actually meant to understand a received message with all these new-age words in it and know if what we’ve read is how it was meant to be interpreted?
An example of the premature enter punch blunder is ‘the classic drunken text’ – this is when your drunken alter-ego decides to take control of your keyboard or mobile and send potentially embarrassing texts or emails to ex-girlfriends, enemies or friends. No one is exempt from Drunk Ian’s need to let them know exactly what happened that night in great detail. Upon checking those great details the following morning, I’ve experienced it firsthand, you become privy to a screen littered with the funniest shit imaginable – funny to everyone else, except you. Optimistically speaking, your ex might not appreciate the fact you called her out on why she made the relationship fail, but what Drunk Ian texts are the cold hard facts. After all, drunken words are sober thoughts - Or are they?

Another example, which is quite entertaining but entirely pointless, is ‘the classic cyber argument’. This is comprised of – ordered as such – an apology followed by a misconstrued apology-argument. This one’s a cycle which only peters out due to boredom of one party or both, my friends. In my opinion, winning an argument over any digital medium is just like winning a gold medal at the Special Olympics; it doesn’t matter, you’re still ‘special’. Apologies need to be heartfelt or they are just empty words, right? Why are we spending the extra R2 on theoretically misinterpreted texts is we’ve established that the use of tone is what gives words that special (not in the Olympics sense) feel. Make it heartfelt, you thrifty bugger. 

Here’s another example: You have a desire to ask someone out on a date yet lack the ‘cahonies’ to do the face to face thing. So you think, why not send a text? Time = money and you need them dollars, don’t you! Well, if you can’t pluck up the nerve to do it face to face, are you going to sit with your Blackberry under the table and BBM each other the whole time at the plush restaurant you choose to dine at? Now don’t get me wrong - I know that sometimes a well-typed and -timed text message can get you the goods. I’m even sure you get a type of ‘cyber playa’ out there with all the words and skills in a chat room (but when it’s time for aural stimulation, said playa lacks the practice and skill of conversing with anyone other than his granny and is left pissing like a puppy). I say matters of the heart need to be verbalized people. The whole I <3 U thing may work for a while (and seems thoroughly effective regarding your time, I know) but without the tickling of the cochlea, words on a screen are just that - words on a screen.

To put all of this in a neatly wrapped package, it is my opinion that those lines of script that you endlessly type out, day in day out need to be relative. If they’re meant for your chick, they’re meant to be verbalised, not button bashed all over a screen. (This is comparative, of course. If you’re going to see her later and talk with your voice box but just want to say “hi”, then it’s fine) We need to realise that we should value the language, and take the time to talk. It’s one of the greatest gifts we, as humans, have: the ability to speak (true, some people should have that gift taken away). Shout, scream, rage, whisper sweet nothings, and so on. Enjoy the act of talking. Communication between your co-workers, family, friends, and lover is bound to get better if it’s not just texted but spoken, tone interpretation and all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Running with the Big Dogs

With my 24th birthday having just rolled by, I find myself sitting here contemplatively, pondering over what it is to be a man in these days. I hardly consider myself a boy anymore, but, looking at our gender in this era, I can’t help but wonder if we’d be considered ‘pansies’ by those men before us. Thinking back to the times of old, in comparison to today’s 21st century male, most ‘boys’ my age were out of the Defence Force, hardened after ‘af kak’ and P.T and the like. So I put this question out there: What does it take - in the technological age - to become a man? Does it include owning a car, having your own lavish place fitted with the latest in high tech gadgets? Strings of failed relationships? World travels?

It’s evident that nowadays, we are faced with work stresses, social intricacies and relationship dances from a younger age. I'm sure if we’d lived 20 years ago it would all seem ‘alien’ and sort of unnatural. We seem to be far more grown up these days but, dare I say it, far less mature in our decisions and actions.

I admit that I hardly feel older than the day I stepped out into my teens. Sure, I've learnt some things and my vocab has grown and I have to shave every day: but are these things worthy of being characteristics that classify a ‘man’? I can change a plug, fix a car, light a fire and braai meat. Do these things make me a man in the world’s eyes? I still want to go karting at any given moment, play putt-putt and trivial pranks...

Which makes me think that, although these things seem immature to some, that which actually makes the difference is not what we do or how we do it, but comes down to how we conduct ourselves, what our attitudes reflect and effect, what our decisions at crucial times are and the way that we treat people who are deemed ‘inferior’ to us. In my opinion: That is how we measure whether or not we are men. Men of this new digital age.

This saying rings true for me: "If you want to run with the big dogs, then don't piss like a puppy.” If you wish to be a man then my advice is to grow a pair and start acting like one. While watching the Green Mile last night, I saw a perfect example of ‘running with the big dogs’ and one of ‘pissing like a puppy’. The antagonist, Percy, is grabbed by ‘Wild Bill’ and pisses his pants after trying to exert his bought authority.

After asking a few of my friends what their opinions on what it takes in this age to be a man, I found a variety of answers:
  • "Taking responsibility for your actions, facing your fears"
  • "Respect"
  • "Being a real man doesn't mean you fuck 100 girls. Being a real man means you fight for one girl, even when 99 others are chasing you."
  • "A man is a person who in every situation thinks of others and does what is needed in a bad situation to pull others through"
  • “I think, nowadays, being a man and being a woman are pretty much the same though I guess a few key elements still exist from the pre-feminism days.”
  • "Having a penis"
  • "Successful in whatever you take on and compassionate and caring in a relationship"
  • "Loyalty, honesty, and living with the decisions you make in life. There are not many people you can trust now days."

What better way for a man to know he is a man than to get an opinion from the fairer sex:

"Men are destined to live hard and die young. That is not to say this is how things are done in our modern cultures. All too often humans forget that they are indeed mammals created by and of this planet to exist on this planet. I believe a man is meant to be one who assumes responsibility for his actions and destiny, and if he is in a position of authority, does the same for those who he is responsible for. A man doesn’t point and make excuses, he recognizes and fixes if allowed. A man shows emotion. A man is truthful even though the truth hurts. A man is kind in the face of adversity and doesn’t freak out. He treats all people with respect no matter how hard it may be. To be a man is to have knowledge of one’s desires, the courage to pursue those desires, and the willpower to make real those desires, regardless of obstacles and resistance from others. That, and the ability to piss wherever, and whenever he pleases."

I think Eric Sevareid said it best “Men want power in order to do something. Boys want power in order to be something.”