CRBTs, LMAOs, ROFLs: Curtailing emotions through cyber-acronyms

Arafat Mohammad Noman, East West University, Bangladesh


Cultural symbols- such as arts, music, literature, movies, novels, history- when shared by the members of a particular culture, remain as dormant in them until and unless they get in contact with a different culture. The exposure to a different culture gives a scope to distinguish between one’s own culture and another. Similarly the technological advancement (basically in the field of communication) has gradually created two types of culture within a particular community/nation/group: a ‘real’ culture which is the embodied experience of a particular group of people or a community and the ‘cyber’ culture which is the result (or experience) of extensive consumption of computer mediated communication (CMC). This exposure in the computer-mediated area (basically known as cyberspace) creates a different level of behavioural pattern in human. By inviting the body and the senses into our dance with our tools, it has extended the landscape of interaction, to new topologies of pleasure, emotion and passion. Thus the current paper tries to discuss the rechanneled emotions through technossories and investigate if it is making us techno-bodies or tech-nobodies. The study is about differentiating emotions at two levels: the embodied emotion and the disembodied emotion. The paper deals with the issue that how far the technological adherence marks the alienation of long nurtured social bond that we used to know.


Emotion or e-motion?


Our passionate response to VR [virtual reality] mirrors the nature of the medium itself. By inviting the body and the senses into our dance with our tools, it has extended the landscape of interaction, to new topologies of pleasure, emotion and passion (Laurel, 1993).

-Brenda Laurel, Computers as Theatre

The proximity between technosorries (technological accessories) and human marked a new epoch in the language system. Besides oral and written form of language, a third type has evolved with its revolutionary image: electronic or computer-mediated language. Computer-mediated communication systems are believed to have powerful implications on social life. This system of communication transgresses what is collective and what is individual. Hence, a tension is created with identity: an offline identity and an online identity. The confusion, tension, imbalance whatever we like to tag it with the focus supposedly remains in the arena of how we are dealing with this self-anticipated duality.

Repudiated Self?

Marshall Mcluhan in his book Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (McLuhan 1994) gives an interesting idea about technology. He shows how we are becoming maimed while superficially being extended by the boon of technology. And my current paper somehow follows Mcluhan’s idea of amputation of human agencies while there is propinquity between technology and human. Interestingly we think ourselves as techno-bodies while there is a chance of being tech-nobodies in dealing with the items we are bestowed with. Every extensions of mankind, especially the technological extensions, have also the flipping side of amputating or modifying some other extensions. Just as the development of gunpowder maimed or curtailed the skill of archery or the invention of telephone extends the voice but maimed the penmanship, similarly the overwhelming usage of cyber technology curtailing our emotional expressions. Let us consider the chat history below:

Rachel: Dude m got fished up

Macklin: sup

Rachel: Moms gonna ban my going to gaming zone

Macklin: LOL

Rachel: CID

Macklin: Let’s see wat happens…FC Dude

Rachel: CRBT L

Definitely one would get confused after going through above chat history. Yes, this is the case when we are too much accustomed to online behaviour. Let me clarify some of the above acronyms: CRBT means Crying Real Big Tears; CID means Crying in Disgrace; FC means Finger crossed and I hope LOL need not to be abbreviated!

Let us try some theoretic consideration in depicting the relationship between human and technology. As structuralism tends to bind us in a structure we human habitually try to breach it and this is the result of breaching: avoiding the structured grammatical rules and way of addressing. The psychoanalytical explanation seems more interesting. Why do we think this virtual entity seems to be more exciting for us? What if I say this is the way of personality formation: an introvert turning out to be an extrovert and vice versa. The outcome of this online interaction is a formation of an e-identity, a virtual whole which is greater than its part and that not being real, is full of life and vitality. In seeking impunity from the age old norms and rules, the “self” gets its virtual identity as unrestrained, less accountable, a little bit on the dark side and unknowingly sexier. This e-personality can act as a liberating force for the real life individual, allowing the person to transcend debilitating shyness, let go of the stultifying and suffocating inhibition and forge him/her into new arena of expression which in real life would seem impossible. It is in many cases complements the real life persona and acts as an extension serving him with vitality, promptness and efficiency. It covers the instant hi hello area to the more vigorous forces that culminates in Revolution 2.0 in Egypt. Disdaining the implicit inertia it helps breaking ice with the significant other over e-mail and also let go of an awkward situation just by blocking and hiding which in real life seems embarrassing. And to sum up we can say having a virtual persona can be like having a proverbial third hand.

But are we so sure of the fact that this cyber world not creating an anarchy itself? Are we not fetishisized by its enticing ingredients? So, if we flip the other side of the coin we find desperation, confusion, pain, disorientation in real life. That is because the online persona is dangerous and irresponsible; making the “self” rough and reckless in its move and encourage attaining unrealistic and unhealthy goals. It nourishes selfishness and creates a sense of isolation yet lingering in a community. The other day I came across a facebook status and that provoked my thought. Here is the status:

Life is like Facebook… people will like your problems and comment on it.. but no one gonna solve them..coz everyone is busy updating their own

This status reminds me of the famous poem Leisure by William Henry Davies. We are too busy and indulged in maintaining “self” that we almost forgot we are in close tie with our surroundings. Wordsworth tripartite relationship seems to dissolve amidst this technocratic modification of us. We rely on technology to fill up our fellow-feeling and texting, chatting, messaging are a good source of marking our presence when needed. We just let our sympathy or empathy limited to GWS Bro (Get well soon brother), It’s K (it’s Okay), CRBT (Crying real big tears) etc. The online arena serves double edged effect here: I) It makes easier to cooperate II) It also make easier to behave selfishly; and not acknowledging our gradual transformation we deliberately lenient of the latter one. The reason behind this let go attitude, what I presume, is that the disembodied interaction does not allow us to get the gesture and posture of the person we are interacting and hence neglecting is easier. We are also in a constant better to say IM communication that allows us to meet more than one person at a time. We tend to forget what we have interacted a moment ago. I have named it as overshadowing effect: the previous condition or interaction is being over shadowed by the present one and it is in a perpetual state of changing, impeding us to focus on a single issue which is possible in real life interaction….Access Full Text of the Article

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