I am a connoisseur of click-bait. But I rarely click. Sometimes, though… Yesterday, I saw this headline, Study Proves Only Jerks End Their Texts With a Period. I didn’t want to click. I felt like I was being manipulated. Just the same, I figured I might get some useful information. And the grammarian in me wanted to know how a mere bit of punctuation could take an ordinary woman and turn her into Jerk-Woman — strange woman from another planet who can set emotional tone with the typing of a single stop.
After clicking over, I saw that it was actually fairly serious. I’ve even wondered about it in the past. Consider this text message, “See you tomorrow.” It comes off as distinctly uninspired. It’s emotional content ranges from Eeyore depression to Monty Python, “Piss off!” On the other hand, this seems very nice: “See you tomorrow!” So the study isn’t about what I had thought: not using a stop at all, but about the apparent need for text messages that are filled with exclamation points! Because everything we say will be twisted if we don’t! They will read the last syllable down and not up! And we can’t have that.
There is one person I work with very closely. She has the habit of filling her email with smiling emojis. At first I thought it was kind of odd. But I’ve come to think that she’s just protecting herself. There is something about electronic communication that makes us all really insecure. In the past, I’ve found myself fine tuning tweets so they can’t be misinterpreted. And it always ends up with me canceling the tweet, because it just can’t be done.
I wonder why it is that we can’t give each other the benefit of the doubt. There is another person who I used to work with. She was older and had been in the computer trenches long before the dot-com boom. And her philosophy was that email was fast and imperfect. You had to assume the goodwill of the person writing to you. I’ve always remembered that. But it is hard to do. When you read something — especially if it is meant specifically for you — it hits you in a visceral way. It isn’t an intellectual process. So it is no surprise that “see you tomorrow” becomes “go away.”
Talking, on the other hand, is amazing. I used to know this storyteller and performance artist. He frequented a number of pubs that I did. And one time he revealed to me that he was hard of hearing. So in a bar setting, he usually could not make out the words that people were saying to him. But with all the other information that people provided in terms of tone and pacing and body language, he got 90% of it. I’m sure he did! This is probably why people are usually struck by my fairly forceful writing style and my conversational style. I’m not sure how to describe the latter, but everything about it is designed to say, “Are you with me?! It isn’t my intention to offend!”
Given that, you would think that people close to me would know better. But I don’t think they do. So now I have something else to worry about. My texts must end with an exclamation mark! Because I am not saying piss off! I’m just going to bed!