COMMENTARY | Recently, the Philadelphia-based Broad Street Review ran three separate pieces on the allegedly linked matters of illiteracy and social media. One of those pieces was mine, and the entire discussion has had me and a circle of friends and relatives modestly debating matters such as causation, obvious downright idiocy, proper form with extreme concision rules, and the like. For the record, in my piece, I doubted a particular set of arguments put forward as linking social media and illiteracy in a cause and effect way.
Then I stumbled onto Trisha’s Tweet, apparently from an African-American teen (going on the picture there):
“I can never pay attention when I do my homework smh I must have 80HD.”
Not surprisingly, this mini-missive engendered a fair amount of comment – if one accepts tweeting as commentary. However, for some reason (read, total volume on Twitter), I can’t locate the re-tweet on which I first saw Trisha’s concern about studying. It may have come from that certified financial advisor I follow, the one who spends a lot of time on Twitter. I think his comment was “LOL,” which I’ll assume doesn’t need explanation. Instead of re-tweeting this apparently errant post, though, I copied the screen capture of it from wherever I found it, and sent it by e-mail to a couple of people under the subject line, then message, “On the other hand…Twitter isn’t helping with some problems.”
Meanwhile, people began to really jump on Trisha, whose Twitter address I won’t provide here, because she’s taken a large ration of criticism already – for a kid – if she’s real. Among the comments at her address were: “LMAO” twice (“laughin’ my [backside] off,” for you old heads), and “…why? Just why?” Also offered were: “I have questions miss,” “my dog might lol,” and “[Trisha] should slap herself for this.” The most intriguing remark, though, was “Lol people think [Trisha’s address].com (my emphasis) is an actual twitter account and are actually tweeting her.”
Thank goodness conspiracy thinking has been shrunken to 140 characters or less!
I assure you that Trisha’s address was actually accessible on Twitter – without the “.com” – or at least was accessible as of February 11. (I couldn’t find it later although it survives on other websites, including, oddly, Bodybuilding.com – with a rude reply – and Yahoo! Answers includes a reply to a question asked five years ago, which may have originated the usage “80HD.” In any event, that “80HD” definitely pre-dates Trisha’s usage.) However, who knows about the reality of Trisha herself?
You expect a point here? We’re talking about social media.
OK, then – lots of time wasted thus far and two potential interpretations: Either Trisha is real and apparently made a mistake, or she isn’t. Using a picture of an unknown teen, someone may be tweeting apparently racist parodies of teen-speak.
The second possibility is unpleasant in the extreme, considerably worse than fretting about whether social media is causing the decline of Western Civilization. So, for the sake of recounting a discussion (largely by e-mail) that did occur, let’s at least imagine that Trisha is real.
One person who got Trisha’s Tweet from me didn’t understand why it had been sent, not even when I replied, “ADHD?” Ditto a second person, to whom I explained that I didn’t understand “smh” myself, that he was the second person who didn’t get the “joke,” and that another didn’t understand the tweet even after I juxtaposed “ADHD” and “80HD.” He then got it, but added: “Remember the days when the point of education was to correct people about things like that? (No, dear, it’s ADHD.) Now we all just sit back and whistle ‘Anything Goes.’ I’m so glad I became interested in the phenomenon of Decadence in college. It’s helped me make sense of the times we live in.”
Meanwhile, my daughter explained “smh” – “shakin’ my head,” and I went back to consideration of the original Trisha message. Hmm. Maybe it needed a touch of punctuation, but suddenly it made a certain amount of literate sense, and even opened up another possibility in my mind: Could “80HD” be a private joke among Trisha and her friends – as opposed to, of course, a weird kind of backhand racist joke made by someone who created “Trisha”?
I then communicated to my friend interested in decadence that maybe Trisha was a straight-A student, adding my theory. He replied, in part, “When accepted standards go out the window and there’s no longer a commonality of shared experience (as in “i ain’t got no friends” sounding harsh and ignorant), then you have a state of Decadence.”
I replied to that, “Not to mention confusion.”
Bottom line: What social media, and particularly Twitter, sometimes seems to foster is not so much illiteracy as non-communication masquerading as communication. The initiated get it – maybe. In other words, if Trisha is real – and she surely could be – and if “80HD” is not simply a matter of what’s commonly called “stupidity,” then what social media does, sometimes, is create a great deal of talking past each other in public, which I’d submit is actually worse than whatever you call illiteracy.
In any event, for the record, my wife insists Trisha is real and just doesn’t read.
But she doesn’t know.