I have observed with great concern the impropriety attending several techno-communications amongst young people in my part of the world. And when I say ‘techno-communication’, I mean the internet and mobile telephony.
The communication and technology enthusiast I am brings me to a number of social networking platforms. On Facebook, WhatsApp and Mobile Communication platforms such as texting and voice messaging, I see and hear so much that bothers me. I see adults do a lot that isn’t right. That worries me, but not as it hurts to see same and worse in the younger generation.
I am of the firm opinion that:
- Habits make a man,
- Success is a habit, and
- It is always right to do what is right.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle, Greek Philosopher
Human beings do most things habitually; thus, developing bad habits like the ones I am about to mention is injurious to the cause of success.
I reckon that a number of young people engaged with techno-communication use miniature computers like the mobile phone. With this tool, there is obviously a limitation as to how fast and how much you can type. And even with a laptop, occasional slips, misspellings and grammatical inaccuracies are possible for the very best and meticulous. The way around this for many is to resort to shortcuts. For example ‘4rm’ when ‘from’ is intended, ‘shld’ for ‘should’, ‘ayt’ for ‘all right’ or ‘alright,’ ‘dt’ for ‘that’ and ‘d’ for ‘the’.
I find these unfitting. Why so? The very phones or tablets or iPads have inbuilt auto correct and word suggestion mechanisms that rather than slow down the user, helps to make his texting/typing easier and faster. As such I find it just not right going about this shorthand methods. If space ‑ the 160 character per page limit ‑ is the challenge, then you either extend the number of pages or pride yourself in being able to do excellent summaries (it could be a good practice ground you know?). After all, brevity is the soul of wit.
The problem with writing in this improper way is that it is likely going to develop into a habit that has the possibility of affecting you when it really matters; in a test, a competitive environment etc. We are creatures of habit. Before you know it, it has shown up, much to your chagrin.
It is worthy of note that some do all these unintentionally ‑ and that is what I meant by the force/power of habit. One more habit I needed to point out is writing in CAPITALS. Using the BOLD, Italics and Underline are for emphases. To persistently and continuously write in upper case letters is considered SHOUTING. Nobody enjoys being around people who scream in order to communicate.
These aforesaid cases are not as bad as the ones I am about to point out; namely, lack of courtesy and plain rudeness.
Sometimes I think the ‘invisibility’ technology and the internet provides makes many a young fellow believe he is either immune or invincible. For example, you have an African kid call you on phone and begins, ‘Hi’ or writes ‘Hey’, ‘Sup?’ etc… What is that? Some in asking about my welfare and that of my colleagues ‑ their seniors ‑ go, ‘Hw r u guys?’ As far as I am concerned, this is a no, no!
Communication is culturally and contextually situated. This is the reason we have formal, semi-formal and informal writing and settings. In American settings, maybe referring to older people that way is acceptable; definitely not so in Oriental or African settings. In the latter for example, it is considered disrespectful. In fact, I know of places where it is considered rude to either look an older person in the face while speaking with them, or being the first to ask how they are doing. Amongst certain ethnic groups, it is a taboo for a younger fellow to initiate a handshake. A little counsel in this respect then to younger Africans: allow the older initiate the informality. Even at that, be careful.
You may query the rationale, but until all the people agree to change from bowing to say shaking hands for example, you must respect that and bow. In the same way, I deem it incorrect for my student to refer to me as ‘guy’ or use any of those slang words ‘watsup’, ‘hey’, ‘sup’, ‘charley’ etc.
There is another angle to this – phone conversations.
African youth, understand that it is culturally inappropriate to begin any conversation ‑ text or voice ‑ without due salutation. For example, I get calls from young fellows that go like this: “Hello…Has our results been released?” Now that gets to me. That is being uncultured to say the least. In principle, I ignore or end all such conversations especially when the other fellow is persistent with this misbehaviour.
Courtesy demands that you greet, and appropriately too. ‘Hello’ and ‘Hi’ are forms of greetings as far as western nations are concerned, but by no means acceptable in African terms. And don’t tell me about globalization which is essentially westernization ‑ the sun rises from the east.
As a grammatical aside, it is ‘Good morning/afternoon/evening/day’ not ‘goodafternoon’ or ‘gudaftn’. That salutation is made up of two words, not one word, neither is it compounded. Etiquette, especially in communication, is of extreme importance and of very serious consequence when violated.
As if these weren’t bad enough, there are those who are downright rude. They post and comment with the most abrasive words, insults, aspersions and vituperation. I encountered one that made me wonder if the fellow writing ever had any upbringing.
The anger in the bosom of young fellows these days is scary and somewhat laughable. It is reflected in the violence and hate-speech that characterizes everything of theirs; from dressing to nicknames. I read their post and wonder, ‘Who are they angry at?’ Can’t we make a point devoid of anger and vile speech? Soft words have the capacity to break even bones – ask the wisest man who ever lived (Proverbs 25:15).
A Nigerian proverb says, ‘However hot your anger, it cannot boil yams’. The humour aside, I see the point being made is that nothing of significance and satisfying value is made from unbridled rage. The greatest and gravest wars are settled always around dialog tables not on war grounds.
As for those who post semi-nude, nude and outright pornography on their walls and timelines, I have a word for you. You are unwittingly carving a reputation for yourself ‑ a bad one for that matter. And like it or not, someday, someone is going to make reference to it. It may be at the moment of your greatest opportunity ‑ what should have been your finest hour.
And if you think using pseudonyms makes you invisible, you have believed your own lie. You have friends who comment on your post who know you. Take counsel from The Talmud: “Thy friend has a friend, and thy friends friend has a friend; be discreet”.