November 16, 2016

The Curse on Social Media

I've been back on social media for a few months now, and find that it is a great tool for keeping up with friends and relatives.  It is also a great way to share creative work.  It is a poor tool, however, for social discourse, especially with those I may not be well acquainted with.   To that end, I started a series of tongue-in-cheek drawings based upon the Facebook "thumbs up" or "like" icon.  My first one was "Troll Be Gone,"  pictured at right.  My next one is "Flush Toilet Talk," at left.  I expound upon the second one here.   This icon can be invoked for profanity-laden posts
. I fortunately won’t have to invoke this much because the few people who read my posts are decent, educated folk. Generally speaking though, with regard to social media, I suppose that some writers, both in the amateur and professional categories, believe that the inclusion of foul words is a great way to emphasize a point. The only thing that it points out to me is an annoyingly limited vocabulary and rather puerile communication skills. I’m not impressed. That’s why I never answer these and never press "share."

I reserve curse words for when I inadvertently step on a sharp object or bump in to a closed door at night. Interesting research in neuro-biology confirms that this does in fact reduce pain. That same research tells us that cursing emanates from the frontal cortex as opposed to the normal language centers of the brain. If I recall correctly, the former area relates to emotion (as does the limbic system) and impulse control. Getting a little political here, since we just elected a leadership that "tweets" from their collective frontal cortexes, I will continue the ultimate subversive act in using only the language center of my brain for public communication.

To be fair, the foul language does come from all sides of the socio-political spectrum. A cursory observation seems to break that down in to the homegrown variety (right) versus the collective share of the pre-fabricated (left). Astoundingly, "potty mouth" traverses educational levels as well. One response I got on Facebook in recent weeks was something to the effect of "****up the a***hole." This rolled off the keyboard in response to the urging of the frontal cortex and into cyberspace from a man in possession of a doctorate in English. Would love to see that dissertation.

What I find also noteworthy about vulgarity in social media is that for English, it is particularly boorish, boring and tedious because it is so limited. Any student of foreign language knows that cursing in other cultures is a goldmine of possibilities, albeit those possibilities mostly having to do with one’s mother. These generally include references to impossible variants in one’s mother’s anatomy, or to being the resultant spawn of various types of biologically impossible animal assignations with one’s mother. I’m not advocating actually adopting these usages, just pointing out how even more pathetic we are with regard to our invectives. We just get the garden variety, "f-you", "f***", "M***f***" and the ubiquitous aforementioned "a***hole." Over and over again - ad nauseam.

To this effect, the words and phrases tend to lose their emotive impact over time due to overuse. They become not only totally meaningless in themselves, but impediments to communication through the accumulated expenditure of trash talk - a dump of unusable verbal toxic waste that one has to plow through in order to get to any reasonable content, if any even remains. Just as there is something totally demoralizing to see a physical landfill of garbage, there is something disconcerting about this verbal landfill in cyberspace. For my part, I’ll refrain from contributing or exponentially emphasizing through passing it on. What else can I say to verbal waste material? Flush you?



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