Connotations in a Digital World
Something we’ve all struggled with is understanding each other in the digital age. If we were standing in front of our friends, family, or acquaintances and speaking to them directly [or video calling in the age of corona!] we would use a wide variety of visual and tonal cues to help us understand how they are thinking and feeling. We are perceptive beings by nature, we pick up on body language, on tonal shifts, on the speed and enthusiasm with which something is said — all to help us know each other better. This is the backbone of language — yes, grammar and pronunciation have always been important, but do they really unlock the secrets of another’s mind? In the digital era, we’ve moved away from this core, this understanding, away from using all the visual and audial cues around us in favour of texting. While it is remarkable that we can say anything to anyone at any given time of the day, it presents us with quite the challenge: how do we really know how they feel about what they’re saying?
I have thought about this for a long time and come back to the point when I learned about what could be called ‘texting connotations’. Grammar and syntax have taken an increasingly important stand in helping us to understand one another, yet they still leave much to be interpreted. A fine example of this is the word “okay”. If I respond with “k”, many would interpret that I am uninterested in the subject or being dismissive. If I say “kay”, it means I’m happy and content with the topic, question, or request at hand. “K” would signal that I’m irritated and want to be left alone, and so on. The problem arises in that not all of us have this same set of connotations attached to grammatical or syntax cues. Before I learned about them, I was terribly confused as to why my friends would react in the ways they did. Additionally, some people may have completely different emotions attached to these forms than I do.
Body language is universal, part of our innate communication as humans, yet this leaves us with much to wonder about one another.