How the Web is killing my ability to communicate

Don Reisinger is having trouble communicating, thanks to Web slang. He examines how it happened and how it is affecting his life.

Thanks to the Internet, I can't communicate effectively anymore. Before I immersed myself in the world of blogs and vlogs, I communicated with others well. We'd talk about the weather, why the Yankees didn't have the pitching to turn things around last year, and the meaning of life. I'd make an argument, others would listen intently, and understand every word I said. It was great.

But now, things are different. I still have those conversations, it's just that now nowadays, I find myself shortening phrases like "I'll be right back" to "BRB" and using words that the majority of people just don't understand.

It has become so bad that my wife (my own wife!) has no idea what I'm saying. Over the weekend, I told her a quick story about what had just happened about three minutes before I went into the kitchen to find her cooking.

"Honey, you won't believe this," I told her, brimming with excitement. "I was just tweeting with some cyberbuddies and out of nowhere, a troll started attacking one of my friends. He took care of it really well. Twitter FTW!"

She stopped chopping the celery, looked up for only a second, shook her head, and went back to chopping the celery. She didn't have the words.

What happened to me? It wasn't a conscious decision to start throwing FTW around, but at some point over the last few months, it has happened.

Here's a list of all the words I've used on an almost daily basis for the last six months. It's scary...

Blog
OK, so maybe "blog" isn't that obscure and there are millions across the globe who understand it, but for someone like my grandmother, simply saying "blog" in a sentence ensures that no matter what comes after that word, it won't be heard.

"Huh? Blog? What are you talking about?"

"Sorry, Gram," I'm forced to respond with a despondent look on my face. "It's what I do for a living. I write."

Blog is one of the few Web terms that has squirmed its way into the public lexicon. It may not be as popular as "article" or "column," but I'm willing to bet that if you polled the folks at work, many of them would know what you're talking about. I'm happy about that. But there are still too many who don't. And if you find one of those stragglers, you can guarantee that they will think you're making up words.

Vlog
Most folks know "blog," but you can bet that 98 out of 100 have no idea what you're saying when you use the term, "vlog."

How can I be so sure? Well, in a moment of pure inspiration Saturday, I decided to call everyone on my iPhone address book who I have a friendly relationship with to see if they ever watched a vlog. I started out asking how the family was, how happy I was about the weather, and then I surreptitiously sneaked "vlog" into our discussion to see how they would react. (Editor's note: So glad I'm not in your phonebook.)

It worked beautifully: everyone stopped what they were saying and asked me what vlog was. I explained that it was a video blog.

Most common answer: "Oh. OK."

Ouch.

Web celeb
Anyone who spends time on the Web knows that there are some people fans call "Web celebs." Generally, these people have large followings and are considered celebrities by their faithful followers.

Little did I know that the vast majority of people have no idea who these so-called Web celebs are and if you query your family and friends, they will look at you like your nose just fell off your face and landed in a platter of salmon.

My wife was probably the most hilarious of all respondents when I started talking about someone prominent on the Web while using the term "celebrity."

"Don, I hate to break it to you, but unless they are walking out of their homes and paparazzi are fighting to take pictures of them, and they're featured almost daily on TMZ or Perez Hilton, or they can't go anywhere without being asked to sign something by legions of fans, they're not celebrities," she says. "Do you want to know a celebrity? Robert DeNiro, Britney Spears, and Howard Stern. Carrot Top is a celebrity."

Yikes. And here I was thinking I actually knew something about pop culture.

BRB
I'll admit it: I use "BRB" almost any time I need to tell someone that I'll "be right back." Why not? I don't understand why I should be forced to spend all that time saying three words when I can say three letters and get to where I'm going sooner.

Of course, when I do say "BRB" to folks, those who understand think I'm a total jerk because, well, no one talks that way in real life. And those who don't understand what those three letters mean, once again, look at me with a quizzical look on their face as they try to work through the letters to figure out what they could mean. One time, a friend delivered this response: "You too."

I realize that I probably shouldn't use "BRB" when talking to someone, but it just comes out. I'll be talking to a friend and out of nowhere I realize that I left the car running in neutral and it's gliding down the driveway on a collision course with the neighbor's mailbox. Is that really a time when I can get through all three words in "be right back?" I don't think so.

LMAO
I'm a little embarrassed by this one, but, yes, I do use "LMAO" when I talk to people.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Shouldn't you really be 'laughing your a-- off' when you're thinking of saying that?" Well, yes and no. See, sometimes, I'll be talking about something that was funny and in order to make the point that I thought it was funny earlier in the day, I've decided to forgo the use of "I was dying laughing" or "I couldn't stop laughing." In its place, I've decided to use LMAO as a way to show my appreciation for a good joke.

And in case you're wondering, it's pronounced, "L - MAO" as in the letter and the former Chinese leader.

Tweeting
I spend much of my time on Twitter each day . Whether I'm just reading through what others are saying or enjoying conversations with followers, I've always been an active Twitter user. And maybe that's why the term, "tweeting" has made its way into my vocabulary.

Sunday, I was talking to a friend on the phone and he asked me what I was up to. My response: "Just tweeting." His response: "What the hell are you talking about?"

Maybe I should start to realize that as popular as Twitter is, it only has a few million active accounts. In a country of more than 300 million citizens, I guess that's not an ideal place to start throwing around the word "tweeting."

Pwned
This one has to be my favorite. Who isn't happy saying the term "pwned" when in the company of friends? Sometimes, when I play a video game with friends or watch a boxing match, my friends will yell, "Oh, man, he just got killed!"

What a bunch of losers. I say what we should all say from now on: "No, dude, he just got pwned!"

At first, they look at me with disdain thinking my "writer's mind" retrieved a word they don't understand. But after they run to the dictionary (yeah, a book. Pssh), they quickly realize that it's not something they can find from our good friends Merriam and Webster. No, the term "pwned" was created in the depths of the Web and surfaced in our friendly game of Halo death match.

They had no other option but to start using it. I think we can start a trend with this word.

FTW
For those who don't know, "FTW" means "for the win." It's used when you're proud or happy about something. It's also one of the greatest abbreviations known to the world.

I'll walk through the house, look at the new handle on my toilet and say, "toilet handles FTW!" When I get to the kitchen, I look in the refrigerator and say, "cold FTW!" I use it all the time. I even say the letters, which actually takes more time than just saying, "for the win."

Unfortunately, too many people in my life just don't know what FTW means. They ask me if it's a derogation or if I'm swearing at them. If I like them, I tell them what it means and explain that I would never, ever, say something mean to them. If I don't like them, I keep them guessing.

But sometimes, using "FTW" doesn't come in handy. Last week, when I was watching the Super Bowl, everyone at the party was screaming for the Steelers. I belted out the first thing that came to mind: "Steelers FTW!" The cheers stopped, the half-eaten chips fell out of the spectators' mouths, and everyone turned to look at me as if I had broken the golden rule of cheering. All they could muster was a soft, but biting, "huh?"

And that's where I find myself today. I'm a product of the Web and it has finally crept into my dialogue with friends and family. It's not intentional and more often than not, I don't even realize what I'm saying.

I'm an unapologetic Web addict. I don't care if people don't understand me and often I'm LMAO thinking it's an inside joke that they're not in on. I'm heartened by the fact that I'm not alone, at least. Many of my readers get what I'm saying. So perhaps people around me don't always understand what I say and they look at me like I'm a little off-center. But maybe they need to catch up with us.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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