Six scary things about the internet

The internet can be a big bad place. Recently I seem to have come across several warnings about web use and computers, some I knew about and others I didn’t. I’ve collected six scary things here that can form part of a discussion on online and computer activity or just generally serve as an awareness-raising reading for teachers and learners moving into the virtual environment.

1 Flame wars and smack talk – The internet is said to have a disinhibiting effect on people’s communication, meaning that they will sometimes say things in online discussions that they would never dream of saying in face to face communication. This hostile and/or insulting behaviour is called flaming, or sometimes smack talk. When users fight fire with fire it descends into a spiral, also called a flame war.

2 Internet addiction disorder – There is some disagreement as to whether this is a separate disorder or rather just a symptom of other disorders (e.g. gambling or porn addicts who go online). Apart from the obvious – wanting to be online all the time – symptoms include fatigue, lack of sleep, irritability, apathy, racing thoughts… uh oh this is feeling close to comfort I’ll stop there 🙂

3 Creepy Treehouse syndrome – What a great name for a syndrome. This has been defined as a place online that adults built with the intention of luring kids in (by Jared Stein, see a more detailed exploration here). In education circles, some people refer to the Creepy Treehouse syndrome when a teacher for example “forces” students to join twitter or Facebook and become friends or followers. Needless to say, this is rather hotly debated (see here for example)

4 Trolls – Internet trolls are unpleasant people who post insulting, inflammatory or irrelevant messages in online forums or on blogs or other public areas. The prime motivation of a troll is to disrupt communication or provoke an emotional response. If a troll is baiting you online, you are giving them exactly what they want by rising to it.

5 Facebook depression  – This one is a bit tenuous, but I need to get my six in so here goes. According to one study of teenage girls in New York the ability to share problems and personal issues to such an extent is causing, or at least aggravating, depression. The problem with online places such as Facebook is that it allows one to discuss and cover the same problems over and over again. You know, really wallow in it.

6 Narcissism and web 2.0 – Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell, authors of The Narcissism Epidemic, call web 2.0 the new Wild West of narcissistic culture. They say the overwhelming message of social networking sites is a focus on the individual and, often, the superficial. Two arguments they make that made me think were the following: 1) the internet makes it very easy for you to be someone you’re not (usually better, cooler, more attractive )and 2) a lot of internet communication is through images and brief self-description placing attention on the shallower aspects of the person (your carefully selected photo, your quips, your blurbs). Ouch!

So, I wonder… do you think learners and educators should be aware of these things, and to what extent? Are these real fears or exaggerated horrors about modern technological life? Post a comment if you feel like it.

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Published in: on February 11, 2010 at 9:32 am  Comments (14)  
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Six internet acronyms your learners really ought to know

Dude-WTF-LG

Here’s another language list I’ve been meaning to do for some time now. As I am spending more and more time online and doing things like twittering and online chatting or moderating of courses, I find I am forced to use more and more abbreviations and acronyms in my writing. I also come across them a lot more, even when communicating with people whose first language isn’t necessarily English. Could online communication be one future component of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF)? Should we start talking about ILF (internet lingua franca)? Whatever the take on those bigger questions, to start with here are six acronyms that I believe are pretty important for learners to know as they navigate the www.

1. lol and variations. This is one of the most common acronyms in online communication. People on the net laugh a lot, it seems. They don’t simply laugh either (l). They’re laughing out loud (lol), or they’re rolling on the floor laughing (rotfl), or they’re laughing their arses/asses off (lmao). I’ve even seen rotflmao, for really funny things.

2. IMO and variations. With the rise of blogging and microblogging everybody has an opinion and wants to share it. However, to make it clear that it is just an opinion we might add in my opinion (IMO) afterwards. If what we are saying is potentially face-threatening we could make it a humble opinion (IMHO). For example, “Lindsay, your book looks really boring IMHO”. Or if we really feel like stirring things up or adding humour we can say in my arrogant opinion (IMAO). Dunno why, but I almost always see this in uppercase letters.

3. brb. Don’t you hate it when you’re in the middle of a really good chat or tweet conversation and the outside world rudely butts in (e.g. having to go off to class, or go to the bathroom). This is when you need to tell people you’ll be right back (brb). Useful to buy time too.

4. ttyl, cu. Two common sign off acronyms are talk to you later (ttyl) or see you (cu). Really clever internet folk do things like cul8r but I always think this is a bit like showing off.

5. btw. Good for adding something extra to a conversation or tweet, by the way (btw) is another one I see an awful lot.

6. omg and other expressions of alarm. The internet can be a shocking place, we may see or read shocking things. This is when it’s a good time to say oh my god (omg). You may want to shout it (OMG!) or really yell it (OMG!!!!!!) but someone told me if you do this too much people will think you are a fifteen year old Lady Gaga fan or something like that. Occasionally you will see something that confounds, annoys or enrages you. And an omg just doesn’t cut it for those situations. No, here you need a what the f*#k (wtf). This is also often shouted (WTF!)

I know, I know, there are hundreds of others that I have probably shamefully overlooked. But I had to stick to six. So, if there is a glaring omission from my list, why not add a comment? What acronyms do you think your learners should know for online communication?

Published in: on October 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm  Comments (12)  
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