07 July 2010

Internet First Impressions

It's kind of weird, when you think about it - all of you reading this post right now this minute will be forming an impression of me, the writer, as you go along. Since I don't have my own blog (unlike most of my partners in crime here), I'd say it's a safe bet that most of you don't have any idea who I am (yet...). Most, if not all, interactions that begin on the internet are based on a written form of communication. Just a bunch of letters on a screen, but behind which is an actual, real person. And yet...

Let me jump to a subject currently near (if not at all dear) to my heart: roommate hunting. I live in a great city (Boston, MA), I have a pretty nice apartment (anywhere I get my own bathroom is like a palace to me), and it's in a fantastic neighborhood (green space, public transportation, cool neighbors...). However, I'm also a musician (read: chronically broke) and single, which means that in order to have all these lovely living amenities, I need roommates. Enter Craigslist. *fanfare* I've had quite good luck in the past finding perfectly nice people to live with (the only verifiably psycho roommate I've had I had already known for 8 y
ears when she moved in... oops), but this go-round it's a really bad time of year to have an empty room - everybody is leaving for the summer and no one wants to move in. But we're getting a decent number of responses - and this is where the writing comes in.

It is REALLY REALLY HARD to take someone seriously (at least for me) if they can't spell or punctuate worth a damn, especially in something as potentially life-altering as sharing living
quarters. Even if your normal style is casual and peppered with abbreviations and acronyms, when you're trying to make a good first impression on someone, spellcheck is your friend (am I allowed to be amused that Firefox flags "spellcheck" as misspelled?). A typo here or there won't disqualify you, nor will a misplaced comma trigger the "delete" reflex, and if English is your second (or third or fourth) language that's a whole 'nother story... but a one-liner like "omg i need a rom rite now please anser" won't actually get you an answer (yes, I received that email, and boy did it hurt retyping it just now). If I'm going to be living with someone, I want to know that they have the ability to communicate - whether in oral or written form. Too many roommate problems crop up because people talk around things or ignore them while they fester - not a recipe for a peaceful home.

Now, since we're talking about first impressions here (okay, okay, I'm talking... no royal 'we' here, I promise), I wouldn't like all of you to get the idea that I'm some kind of mad Grammar Gestapo or anything. I like a good LOLcat as much a
s anyone (more than many, honestly), and there are some decidedly odd constructions spilling out of my mouth at any given point in time (hell, sometimes I have trouble staying in one language long enough to finish a sentence). But when you're actively trying to convince someone that you're a sane, stable person whom anyone should be happy to live with, because you're capable of paying the rent on time and not leaving things in the fridge until they turn into unidentifiable smelly mush, you want to take a bit more care about things, yeah? (We are not going to get into the online dating thing. That is another order of magnitude ENTIRELY.)

I think this is why, of the friends I have gotten to know online (though some have broken out of the confines of the computer to throw real-life wild parties {did we actually break that door hinge, you guys?}), most of them are WRITERS. People who can use words as they were meant to be used - to express, rather than obfuscate, meanings and feelings and ideas and, like, y'know, stuff. Hence you will find me here, hanging out with other mad Burrowers, mostly spouting oddities but occasionally wearing the serious hat (like I sort of am now - I think of the serious hat as a slightly tatty black bowler, though, which makes the whole thing less serious, really). All of the buddies-who-are-Burrowers originally caught each others' eyes on message boards, out of text alone - whether it was terrifically clever, surpassingly silly, or just plain weird (the phrase "naked Crisco Twister" comes to mind here, for which I am clearly going to blame The Tart). The clarity of expression, no matter our individual styles - that's what I'm getting at here, and that's what is lacking in so much online communication. If that makes me a wee bit of a snob... I guess I can live with that, but I won't be living with someone who can't string together half a dozen words intelligibly.

So, am I one of the 17 people on the planet who uses semicolons in text messages? Has the sentence "Why am I detailing Latin etymologies in my kitchen at half past midnight?" come out of my mouth recently? Did I get used as a dictionary by my mother over the holiday weekend while she was reading a book I lent her in the first place? Clearly the answer to all these is "yes", but oh well. I will leave you then with some truly inspired and favourite examples of what you might call gibberish, tosh, bosh, rubbish... or just plain fun.

The first verse of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky (the first poem I ever memorized):

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome-raths outgrabe.

Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate (which must be heard to be believed - seriously!)

And the guy at whose feet I grovel for sheer wordy exuberance (and where I got the tip-off for that last burst of insanity) - the phenomenal Stephen Fry! To whom I have been listening rather too much this week. I claim only a minor digression for the addition of these items to the end of this post... I'll leave the major ones for Mari.


RosieC said...

I *heart* semicolons :)

Hart Johnson said...

NOBODY is buying that you are sane. Not happening. And the door hinge was FINE and that only serves as evidence of my INGENUITY (we got the bottle open, didn't we?) *cough*

Good luck on the roommate hunt and great post, Leanne!

Dunx said...

Anyone who likes Stephen Fry makes a good first impression with me! At the risk of sounding like Amazon, you might also enjoy Eddie Izzard.

You make a very good point about the allure of fine text, though. I've been part of an online community of parlour game players for an absurdly long time, and the community members who are most enjoyed are the most expressive in their writing.

Thank you for an interesting post, and good luck finding a room mate.

(and I think spell check is usually two words...)

Smackenicious said...

I really don't buy the idea of a person who "created" the most wonderful creature "Alot" is sane at all ... but you do have an Exquisite manner to catch a reader’s attention ... as I believe, most of the Burrowers have.

Good luck finding your room mate.

I am sure I did misspelled a lot of words but I do have the excuse that English is not my first language ;)!

Jemi Fraser said...

Nice to 'meet' you & good luck with the roommate search! :)

ViolaNut said...

RosieC - yay for semicolons (and their fans)!


Dunx - I do like Eddie Izzard. :-) And as for (and I think spell check is usually two words...) - where's the pleasure in that? *snort*

Ana - I can't take credit for the Alot, that was Allie over at Hyperbole and a Half, although I am planning on knitting one as soon as I figure out how to do its fangs...

Jemi - Thanks! I think we've got one now... *fingers crossed*

Hart Johnson said...

A Leanne Knitted Alot? BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, that's fabulous!

YAY for probable roommates!

Amber T. Smith said...

I want a knitted Alot!!

You already know I loved the post, Leanne, but I'll you again - I LOVED the post *snort*

And wow, check out our followers already! *is awed* I do hope I don't frighten everyone away when it's my turn to post.... *shifty*

Unknown said...

I hope you do find a roommate soon, especially in this economic climate.

I hear you with the internet/ instant messaging/ texting talk. It drives me insane. Sometimes I cannot even decipher what someone is trying to say and because I find that embarrassing, I will tend to ignore the message.

*bad Chary*

Cruella Collett said...

Zori, lolz, I wz MIA IRL. Bt had t cmmnt on thz. Very funny OMG LOL!

Okay, I can't keep it up any longer... Boy, it is HARD trying to write chatspeak - I can't see how they bother! (I think I may have accidentally invented a dialect of my own...)

Marjorie said...

I'm looking forward to more blog posts from you, Leanne. I SO want a knitted Alot! I wonder what Allie would think of that?

I'm with Tami. Nobody thinks you're sane, but you are one of the most well loved of the insane there is.

ViolaNut said...

*hides straitjacket* Well, I guess I know what I'm going to be knitting for gifts this year... ;-) Thanks for braving the Blogger baloney to post comments... it's been a pain all day, but hopefully it's all fixed and happy now, just in time for our next installment. :-)

Natasha said...

I want a knitted Alot too, but if you promise to transcribe the pattern for me, I am willing to knit it myself.

And anyone who thinks you are sane needs to get their head examined. You are gorgeously insane, but we wouldn't want you any other way.