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August 11, 2009

Net change: It's a brave new www.orld

LOL, ROFL, BRB, IMO, AFK, BBL: what do all of these strings of letters have in common?

All of the aforementioned abbreviations can be traced back to chat rooms which were first established on the Internet. These acronyms are only a smattering of a much larger vernacular that has been firmly established in our daily conversations.

Some may say that the "Web" has ruined our sense of personal communication. Others may argue that such acronyms are time-saving word devices that could also be construed as universal.

I honestly believe we can find truth in both. To fully understand the dichotomy that exists between a more traditional written language, and that of truncated Web speak, we must first take a look at how the Internet has changed the way in which we receive and, more importantly, perceive information.

It is hard to imagine that today's generations will have never known a world without the Internet. We, as a whole, look to the World Wide Web — it is now almost two decades old — as an access point for instantaneous communication and information. I know that if I want to read the most current of news stories and events, I no longer have to wait for the morning paper. To assuage my thirst for immediate entertainment, I can type in a URL that will lead me to any of the major news sites and then be granted immediate passage to global events, national and regional updates.

I can even get the scoop on what the latest trend is. Hmm . . . is tweed really in fashion again?

I will freely admit that I am a slave to technology. On the flip-side of the coin, I am also a sentimentalist.

At rare times I will carefully construct a hand-written letter to a loved one or friend. I am sure there are many of you who will agree (my generation mostly) that there is something in the tactile nature of hand-written messages that electronic communication cannot match.

We have the coarse grain of handmade stationary that tickles the palm of your hand as you smooth over the surface. I can revel in the smell of fresh ink and the cool touch of a well-made pen.

Once I put pen to paper, I can feel the tug of the pen nib against the fibers of the blank document. I cannot forget the scratching sound of metal on paper, and there is the certain satisfaction from the motion of my hand as I scribble out one word at a time.

To my senses, this is a personal ritual in which the clicking of plastic keys can never truly replace.

At one time, humans corresponded primarily in this fashion. Today, we have e-mail. Is e-mail so readily accepted because this is the standard in which we communicate professionally/personally? Or do we cling so vehemently to e-mail because we are over-stimulated and have less time?

Where the true answer lies, well, I suppose that depends on individual dispensation. The simple fact remains: The Internet has changed communication.

The Internet has not only changed how we write to one another, the manner in which we write to one another, but it has also changed how we receive other types of media. I think it is safe to say that the age of the weekly radio program, the black-and-white television and only three channels are long past. With technological marvels like YouTube, Hulu, iTunes, and digital media devices — i.e. iPods and smart phones — we are no longer waiting around to be entertained.

Not only can we access an almost endless supply of audio, video and poorly written blogs, we can comment on these things. We as an entire world have created a global community, which in essence, controls said content. We are the test group for entertainment companies. We are the control for business research.

Through our intertwined string of electronic diatribes, we are constantly reshaping the forms of what we see, hear and read. We have destroyed the old business paradigm of being told what we want. With anonymity, we have stormed the digital castle and asserted our collective power. We don't know who the other is, but the fact remains: We are the Internet.

PLEASE NOTE: Some links and e-mail addresses in these archived news stories may no longer work, and some content may include events which are no longer relevent, or reference individuals and/or organizations no longer associated with ULM.