A horrible problem in the world has reached epidemic proportions without anyone seeming to notice. It is insidious, and accounts for a declining intellect, social stratification, and rampant misunderstanding. We are all guilty of spreading this contagion of the digital age, and the sooner we find an antidote the better. I am speaking, of course, of AOD, better known as Acronym Overload Disorder.
The final straw for me came on Sunday, September 23, when a good friend listed her morning bird sightings in such truncated abbreviation that I had no clue what she was talking about. That is because I am a “fringe birder,” one who sees birds as a lovely complement to the more important insects. I would never be so rude as to assume that anyone would know what I meant if I said “There goes a TTS (Two-tailed Swallowtail)!”
This demonstrates the social stratification element of acronyms. We want to be the ones “in the know,” members of the exclusive club that can refer to things in shorthand with the confidence that other members of the club will recognize what we mean (wink). It is a way to create cliques. We all know how beneficial cliques are.
I realized how tragically hip I myself had become when another good friend mistook the “LOL” in my e-mails for “Lots of Love” rather than “Laughing Out Loud.” Indeed, we can trace our dependence on acronyms to the phenomenon of texting. From there it has spread to Twitter, Facebook, and e-mails. Maybe its origins go back farther than that, though.
When did we first start referring to Burger King as “BK,” Kentucky Fried Chicken as “KFC?” I confess that I don’t use “BK” when talking about the restaurant because it always reminds me of the “BTK” serial killer (Bind, Torture, Kill). Burger King should have thought of that, actually. We call Weapons of Mass Destruction “WMDs,” as if that somehow softens the thought of bombs detonating and killing innocent people.
There is also something of a generation gap created by the fast-evolving shorthand of texts, compounded by auto correct features of “smart phones.” Parents are often mystified by the messages sent by their children. That is the point, of course. What teenager wants to be sending a “sext” with a PLOS (parent looking over shoulder)?
Words have always been powerful, but the new shorthand is perhaps even moreso by literally excluding so many from the conversation, or the public discourse. I remember news broadcasts in my youth that referred to a hot topic of the day: euthanasia. I wondered what all the fuss was about regarding children in China. Today, I don’t even have a reference book that I can refer to for acronyms because they are created almost daily.
Obviously, this trend toward truncated language is a symptom itself of a society that puts a premium on speed, hurtling ever faster into tomorrow. That may be the biggest tragedy of all. We need to take time to slow down, observe where we are personally and as a species. We don’t need everything, right here, right now. We certainly don’t need to know every little detail of your day, Twitterholics. We’re losing sight of what things are truly important as everything becomes trivialized through social media.
RU RFLYAO yet? Oh, sorry, that’s “Are you rolling on the floor laughing your ass off, yet? I rather hope not. Remember, this addiction to abbreviations is an illness. That is why I am contemplating founding a non-profit aimed at curing our society of AOD. You can begin sending money now, if you like. I will happily see to it that funds are dispensed in the most effective manner possible, ASAP.