Trust me, I hated writing that title. Really I didn’t like it. But this isn’t about poor writing and the terrible writing convention that is the hyperbole. I wanna talk about why I STILL write hyperbolically, at least sometimes.
I am a writer. I think that’s obvious. I hang out with also mostly writers. We all talk though like the product of our generation. We talk like 90s kids. This is hardly the group of Bad Boy French Poets of the 19th Century. We speak to each other normally. We use slang. Lots of slang.We use short hand: most of us grew up with the last part of the AOL generation. I got my start online with Xanga, MySpace and AOL IM. I came into my own as a writer in the mid 2000s and despite the rampant fanfiction and emo-poetry: we did write pretty formally back then. (For the record referring to the mid 2000s as back then hurt my soul.) I continued a dualist form of writing: informally with friends with lots of shorthand and formally when it came to school work and writing. But in my speech and life I kept most of the shorthand I grew up with: LOL, LMAO, BRB; I’ll even use these to this day. But this isn’t just about shorthand. It’s about hyperbole and internet culture.
I’m a social media manager and I hate click-bait titles and the current trend of the Internets is hyperbolic generalizations.
I can’t even.
This is literally me.
This is the worst/best ever.
As much as I hate these because you cannot be any of those things. You can even, you have to so that you can exist. No block of text is literally anyone. And any one things is the best and worst all the time for most people because life is beautifully subjective. PBS Idea Channel did a great episode about it here.
But there’s something interesting about the relationship of being a writer and still using slang and Internet speak. In communications with my best friend, most of our posts are glimpses from Tumblr that are literally me right now. But as a writer I should be more proper. I should be above that. I should be better than that. I am not better than that. I currently moderate a chatroom that has a somewhat strict no-chatspeak policy. The policy cites that as a room for writers, we should all be literate. Now, this isn’t a berating of the policy: it’s a policy and they’re in place for a reason but it’s made me come to terms with the fact that I use A LOT of chatspeak. I frequently abbreviate words and shorten them based on how I feel and for the few times I was clocked on the policy I was charged to enforce I felt a lot of shame. I felt like I was somehow failing the English language itself if I didn’t end every single sentence with proper punctuation or with a definite article. I felt like a failed writer each time a phrase didn’t end in some Shakespearean couplet.
So I moved my more informal writing habits to personal chats and wherever the damn hell else I wanted. But I still struggled with the feeling that I was a failed writer whenever I used shorthand and spoke in like literally the best ever sort of way. But what’s so bad about speaking hyperbolically?
There’s been plenty of posts about the Age of Hyperbole where everything is the best and the greatest then what really is the best and the greatest. I see that there’s a problem with this at its core and we’re reaching a saturation point that with all things being the best there is no the best anymore. We’ve long since lost the meanings of the word awesome and terrific because their Romantic-era meanings involved fear, sublime dread and literal mouth-gaping awe at something so vague, overwhelming and intensely other.
So here’s an unpopular opinion: maybe that’s okay. Yes, the word awesome is dreadfully overused and I can’t stand it but it’s just a reflection of the modern era. Thanks to technology and globalization we don’t get many awe-struck moments anymore. And I’d challenge if anything we aren’t in an age of hyperbole but an age of understatement. I find that when I use these words there’s almost an implied irony to it. Nothing is literally awesome anymore but it’s an understatement as a means to fill the void left behind so many of the little victories we face in day to day survival. Amazingly despite my disliking of him as a writer, John Green has been a bit of my model for the modern writer. A modern writer should use social media, should play video games, should falter, should have flaws and should be if anything opinionated and true to themselves. Being a writer doesn’t mean not being human.
Thanks for reading and if you ever hear me talk like a late 90s era Valley Girl, please don’t judge me. I literally can’t even sometimes.