Monday, January 18, 2010

Getting too comfortable with your PLN or Social Network: Colorful Acronyms

Is it possible for one to get too comfortable with their PLN or Social Network? If the past few weeks are any indication, I would have to say yes. So what exactly am I suggesting here? Well it's just an observation, but I am often surprised by tweets and or Facebook status updates that contain colorful acronyms or a missing letter from certain 4 letter words from professional colleagues, friends, and others. Now I am not guilty of using colorful language but I am particularly careful where, when, and with whom.  As role models for our children, students, and young faculty we must be vigilant and remind ourselves that our digital footprint extends much further than our PLN, friends, or followers.

So, is it necessary to use these acronyms or replace a letter so the profane word is not "obvious"?  I hope it is not because it reminds me of the message I convey regularly to my students and my own children. If you get comfortable using language a certain way, it becomes more difficult to control when it should or should not be used  and I believe the same is true with tweets and status updates.

The Bugs Bunny cartoons figured this out a long time ago.  There was no need to use an acronym or "misspell" the term, they kept the meaning hidden but it was still an exclamation. Now, I really respect my PLN and friends on FB but I can't help but wonder why it persists.  Our audience is much larger than we can ever imagine which means we must avoid this pitfall and not get too comfortable with our PLN or social network.  Young people struggle enough with the concept of knowing your audience, so let's avoid giving them mixed messages because the acronyms and misspellings are not fooling anyone.


Meredith (@msstewart) said...

You bring up lots of interesting points.

A couple of thoughts-

I'm a little surprised you lump Twitter and FB together. For me they are very separate things. While I don't assume privacy (whatever that means these days) on FB, I do have a very different, closed (virtually all my info is sent so only my friends can see it) there. The same might be true if I had my Twitter account set to private, although the possibility of RTing would likely still make me a bit more cautious.

When it comes to acronyms I find them less troublesome or offensive than you because I really don't know what the person is referring to when writing or saying OMG, for instance. (Feel free to delete that if you find it troubling.)

It was very interesting to me that in the movie The Fantastic Mr. Fox one particular cuss word which would have gotten the movie an R rating was replaced with the word “cuss.” This kept the movie to a PG rating but also allowed Wes Anderson to get away with combinations of the word “cuss” that made even me blush. Sometimes I think it’s not the word, but the intent, which is a greater challenge to “read” via the internet.

I’m curious about the distinction I hear you making between acronyms and euphemisms in your tweet to @pickledtreats. Why is one ok and not the other?


Hiram Cuevas said...


Thanks for your comment.

As socialmedia is integrated more and more into educational environments, I find the lines separating FB and Twitter blurring. Many schools have Twitter accounts and FB pages which can make it difficult for some users to separate the recreational from professional which is why I lumped them together. However,despite your privacy settings, what prevents another user/friend from forwarding content outside of your network. Most would respond that it is unlikely that this would happen but it certainly is possible.

With respects to blurring the professional with the recreational, the same is also true for Twitter. Members of a PLN get comfortable and trust each other because we have common ties. We share personal information about family, work, and we even encourage each other to do shout outs when we present. We share lots of stuff but do we ever really know our audience? And given that unknown, why would one place themselves at risk by using inappropriate language. I'm not referring to your "OMG" but I do know some folks who can't stand that phrase or acronym. Also, there are a whole host of terms that are intentionally misspelled or spelled phonetically and acronyms that are used I suppose to suggest that it is ok or meant to be cute.

Socialmedia is very fluid and by its very nature social which means users need to exercise greater restraint. Our circles are like a living Venn Diagram because the degree of overlap changes based on the conversation but sometimes the conversation should be a DM, an email,or a phone call rather than in a public thread-IMO.

As for euphemisms, my hope is that I am able to discern that there will be cultural and linguistic variations.