Kojo Baffoe: Love the techno, loathe the lingo

2009-10-12 09:51

This is a mini-rant. Social media has become all-consuming. We live

our lives in public spaces, randomly sharing our private moments with a world we

don’t necessarily know. It started with email, moved to MySpace and found a home

in Facebook. Friends you hadn’t seen for years and people you would never ever

meet become your Facebook friends.

I may seem negative but I’m not. I love social media. I have three

blogs and two MySpace pages. Fortunately, I only have one Facebook account. I

played the games and did the quizzes. That is in the past tense now.

I now spend less and less time on Facebook since discovering

Twitter. Like many I signed up for Twitter and just didn’t take to it. It just

seemed very boring to constantly talk about what I am doing at any point in

time. I signed up and had my account sitting there for about six months before

my first tweet.

Now I love Twitter. I have discovered how to make it work for me

and have even been commissioned to do writing work because of the relationships

I have built on Twitter. It is an interactive space that reveals the dishonest

very quickly. Having 140 characters within which to express your thoughts and

views forces you to be concise, sharp and coherent.

I do not follow celebrities, unless they act like human beings. I

do not follow brands, if all they want to do is sell to me. And I love the fact

that despite the space limitation people on Twitter spell correctly.

In general I love how technology has changed the way we interact,

but I hate how it has become an excuse for bad grammar and spelling. Over the

last few years, particularly with the explosion of SMS, a whole digital language

has emerged with its own spelling. I can do it just as well as the next person

and there are some occasions when it is appropriate – like sending a quick SMS

while driving – but I really don’t think it should be all the time.

Language is a tool for us to communicate thought and feeling. It

has the potential to create amazing beauty and to truly move souls – bt nt whn u

wrt lk ths.

On Facebook, where one has enough space to communicate, I do not

see a reason for indecipherable abbreviation. I have heard some try to justify

this dumbing down of language in different ways but it just doesn’t make sense

to me. In fact, one of the first groups I joined on Facebook was called “I judge

you if you use bad spelling and grammar”. It had former US president George Bush

as its group avatar.

There are some who argue that English is the coloniser’s language

so they don’t need to write it properly. Rubbish. If you use a tool, you perfect

your use of it. Don’t use it if you aren’t going to at least attempt to be

competent in it. Whatever language you speak you must try to understand its

rules and nuances as much as possible to ensure that you use it to engage

effectively with the world around you.

Others argue that the youth are taking language and moulding it to

fit the times. More rubbish. We all have our slang. We all have those words that

we give new meaning in our vocabulary. It doesn’t mean we can, therefore,

proceed to brutalise a language in its entirety.

I had a British education. It gave me a love for the English

language and English literature. I write in English. If I want you to understand

where I am coming from, I need to constantly improve my understanding of the

English language so I can use the best words possible for you to understand what

I’m communicating.

If I wrote in Sesotho or Zulu or Twi or Swahili, I would need to

have the same level of commitment to understanding all those languages. I’m just


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