Loose Ends: Say what, Facebookers?

Dolly Viscardi
When the Herald Times first joined Facebook and offered readers a chance to editorialize on selected subjects, it seemed as if most would be brief or abbreviated correspondence complete with slanglish, emoticons, or any other form of cyber-communication. Readers responded well, although some questions seem to generate more conversation online. There continues to be a question of the week on Facebook, with a wide variety of responses ranging from the monosyllabic to the verbose. Sometimes the responses reflect the medium and use words or symbols that are known to those who communicate mainly on the web.
While it may increase communication among community members, the danger is that the quality of the exchange may be lacking. One particular letter caused some outrage with fellow Facebookers (or Facebookians). The writer was criticized soundly for “not using the online spelling dictionary,” as well as ungrammatical writing. While one correspondent felt the others were being unfair and unusually harsh, another noted that he didn’t express himself well.
It didn’t help that his letter was critical of the Rangely school system, as it opened the door for readers to question the point of his letter. Was this correspondent expressing his opinion about the quality of education he had been receiving or was he accusing the local school district of shortchanging its students? The conversation seemed to move very quickly to placing the blame on the Rangely School Board, which was not being “transparent enough” when they were making such a serious decision as changing to the four-day school week.
The old-fashioned way of writing a letter has changed, as the responses to these weekly questions indicates. Some would say substance has replaced form, but it seems like this shorthanded way of communicating is loose enough to allow correspondents to get sloppy. Tone of voice, facial expressions and hand movements are missing from this kind of conversation. A statement that would have been considered inconsiderate or rude is now allowed or sometimes encouraged. Proponents of only communicating by e-mail or text say that all of our communications should be like that — short and to the point.
One of the advantages of cyber-communication is said to be the anonymity it provides and as one social networking site put it “help people avoid awkward situations.” It could also be considered one of the disadvantages though. People have a tendency to say things that they would never say in a face-to-face conversation and e-mail conversations seem to engender that behavior.