So, I am stealing this topic a little bit from Ali, but it's a good topic and there is lots to be said about it.
A little bit ago, Ali came in all a-breathin' fire, talking about how frustrating it is that some people are so down on computer-mediated communication (CMC). CMC is something that I frequently discuss in class. I vividly remember the first time I brought it up with a group of students here at Augsburg. I asked the class how many of them email and what they think about it. I was floored when half the class said that they hate email and CMC in general. I really couldn't figure that out. I LOVE CMC. CMC makes my life so much easier. I love my cell phone, my IM software, and texting. Don't mistake me, I also realize that CMC is having some detrimental effects on our overall ability to communication. For example, this morning on NPR I heard a story about a new study that found that college students that frequently text message do worse on formal writing assignments but better on informal writing assignments. I have seen evidence of this many times in student papers. However, after having many discussing about CMC, and having spent much time pondering the problem, I have come to the following conclusion:
CMC isn't stupid, people are.
Ok. That's not EXACTLY what I mean... people are lazy...allow me to elaborate... I am a frequent user of CMC. I also have good writing skills. While I do allow myself the occasional lazy use of abbreviations or accidentally-incorrect grammar, for the most part I am very diligent about making sure that my text messages and IMs have correct spelling and punctuation. Yes, it is a small point of pride that even my brief CM messages are well-written. More than pride, however, is the influence of habit. I practice and have practiced good writing habits my entire life. When I make a typo or grammatical error, my finger automatically flies to the delete button, fixing the problem before I am even conscious that I made it in the first place.
To sum up, CMC is a tool, not an excuse. Any thinking person has the ability to tailor their communication to suit the situation. Be mindful, pay attention to the context of that communication. Don't email your professor or boss in the language of the LOL Cats (or, as one of my students called it last week, "That kitten speech." If you don't know what this is, check out http://icanhascheezburger.com/). While those funny sayings over pictures of cute kitties are hilarious, they aren't exactly professional. Use common sense. If you have friended your boss on Facebook, remember not to post comments about how much you hate your job. Yes, it's convenient to blame CMC for many of societies woes, just as Plato wanted to blame rhetoric for badness in ancient Greece. However, I'm with Aristotle on this one: CMC (like rhetoric) is a tool. That tool can be used for good or evil. Now, I have to go take all my drunken party pics off my profile.