Jewish World Review May 19, 2002 / 8 Sivan, 5762

Lori Borgman

Lori Borgman
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Consumer Reports

Instant Messaging and LOL | I do my best to keep up with the youth culture and frankly, I think I do a pretty decent job. I can tell you right now that that skanky girl named Bethany Spears really isn't so innocent (a mother knows). I also happen to know that she is dating and/or breaking up with a young man in that popular band named In Stink.

It's hard work staying abreast of pop culture, but it is my duty as a parent much the same way it was my duty to wash my children's dirty socks and wipe their runny noses when they were younger. All of which is why I have been forcing myself to learn how to instant message on the computer.

You may remember when kids hung around living rooms with telephones glued to their ears, lounged on floors or hid in closets, having lengthy conversations with one friend at a time. Well, that is ancient history. Today, kids communicate by instant messaging, which entails going on-line, logging in with some goofy made-up name, and sending messages back and forth with 30 or 40 of their closest friends all at the same time. They use telegraphic sentences, abbreviations that stand for entire phrases and 37 variations of a yellow smiley face. Modern technology allows them to have deep and meaningful conversations like the following

daizy2cute: sup?
34pliffin: nada
daizy2cute: you?
34pliffin: saw bt at the mall w/o hc at mickey ds>

That may not seem breathtaking to someone like you, someone still scratching your head wondering who Bethany Spears is, but as a trend watcher, I can interpret those screen exchanges and tell you that an entire relationship bloomed and died over a bag of fries at McDonalds in the food court.

Confused? To better understand the nuances of instant messaging, picture a communication system that blends a functional illiterate with e.e. cummins. The basic lexicon consists of brb (be right back), gg (gotta go), bff (best friends forever), lylas (love ya like a sister) and jk (just kidding).

On the upside, many a young person has become a speed typist through the wonders of instant messaging. I peek over the shoulder of my youngest who is hammering away at the keyboard, read a few lines of what she has written and say,"It's hard to believe most states still require four years of English in order to graduate from high school when nobody uses it."

"Lol, Mom," she says. Being a trend watcher, I immediately know that lol means laughing out loud.

"Twyt, "I say.

"What?" she asks.

"Twyt - that's what you think." I say.

"Where did you get that from?" she asks.

"I made it up," I say, smiling.

"You can't just go making things like that up."

"Why not? Show me the rules to instant messaging," I say. "Better yet, show me a complete sentence. Show me punctuation and capitalization. Somebody made up those other codes, now I'm making up a few of my own I've even written them down on this index card so you can learn them."

She takes the card and begins reading them aloud: "Dyutd: Did you unload the dishwasher? Hm: How's math?

"Mom, this is crazy!"

"No, this one means crazy ," I say, pointing to pmho. "It means pulling my hair out."

"What's this one?" she sighs.

"Oh, you mean, gotcrn? It means get off the computer right now."

JWR contributor Lori Borgman is the author of I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids. To comment, please click here.

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© 2001, Lori Borgman