As I was browsing through my Twitter timeline this morning, I was specifically looking for something that I’ve been curious about for some time. Specifically, I was looking for pronouns. Goodness knows that nobody will confuse me with a real writer with a deep knowledge of the English language. I can put two or three words together to form a blog entry and that’s about it. I’m happy with that.
My focus on pronouns though has been something that’s been bouncing around in my mind for a while now. The concept is whether they appear or whether they don’t and do they correlate to my interest in the message. I remember a comment that my father once said that we should all strive to be good by making others look good. I also remember the system operator of System EX-10 Canada, a multi-line BBS system who always talked in terms of “We”. There was a time when I got to visit the “inner sanctum” which turned out to be a basement with multiple computers running the software. I think “We” referred to the machinery because there certainly wasn’t a staff running the operation.
Today, huge amounts of communication flows through Twitter, Plurk, and Facebook in my world. Your communication vehicles may be different. The thrust is to get the message out – to communicate – to get to the point. In Twitter, for example, you’re limited to 140 characters so there are times when you really need to focus on crafting your messages. There are two things that I’m seeing.
First of all, we see the creation of what my friend Margaret calls “MSM Speak”. You know the stuff – LOL – BRB – the terms that we’ve all accepted as being part of the online experience. A true butchering of the language but it seems to be a price that we’re happy to pay.
The other thing is that pronouns are harder to find. Instead of complete sentences, writers are starting to focus on the predicate of their messages. I’m noticing messages that very action oriented. As a reader, you tend to fill in the subject with your own appropriate subject and usually the pronoun. Sometimes, you fill it with “I” and sometimes, you use the word "We”. It’s an interest process and I find it very inviting and engaging as a reader.
Not all messages are like that though. We have the “Rock Stars” who very clearly want to make the message all about them. In this case, the message almost always includes references to “I” or “Me” and there’s no doubt that they’re focussing on themselves. The other interesting observation is that this type of user doesn’t really want to engage in a conversation. They just want to tell you what they’re doing. “Here is a picture of my big toe”. Like that’s going to increase the collective knowledge of their followers.
I’m certainly not a linguist but I know what I like to read. I’m finding that the absence of pronouns a real magnet for my reading eyes. Messages that start with “I” are increasingly glossed over. Now that I’ve taken the time to write these thoughts, I’m sure that I’m going to continue to fixate on this. With all that’s available for the reading and the learning, what catches your attention?