I left a Facebook group today that I had been a member of for a couple of years. It was the Central Florida Motorcycle Riders group. As a lifelong motorcyclist, this was a little disheartening, but not as bad as it sounds. I ride solo usually, or with friends and family, and have been riding for thirty years. I’ve learned that a single common interest is usually not enough to connect significantly with anyone. I have yet to meet a guy who is a motorcycle rider and has nothing else in common with me with whom I would be a friend.
So leaving the group was easy. But why did I leave? It all started with this:
The CFMR group on Facebook is filled with this kind of post – but I will admit this is by far one of the worst I had seen in a while. Deliberate and intentional misspellings, poor grammar, bad syntax, and little critical thought are the staples of posts in the group. The few articulate and engaging posts (to me) are rare indeed.
A Grammar Nazi is derided on the Internet because the perception is that they point out honest mistakes and use them as part of fallacious arguing, or trolling. And a lot of Grammar Nazis do just that. Not me. I get extremely annoyed when someone calls another person out for “beleive” as opposed to “believe.” These are finger slips and honest mistakes. We all make them. We have to learn to recognize the difference between an honest mistake and an egregious misuse of the language.
What is less forgivable to me is “you’re” versus “your,” and other obvious and basic mistakes that an adult just should not make when typing, even when it’s with just two fingers on a smartphone. If you mistake “you’re” and “your,” you’re displaying a lack of understanding of the basic semantics of your language.
So when I saw the above post from Cat Karney, my brain figuratively exploded a bit and oozed out of my ears. That an adult would intentionally decimate and mangle her native language so badly astounded me. I called her out on it, asking what happened to her grammar in the post. Were the vowels not working on her keyboard? The shift key?
The result was not unexpected. I started an indignant tirade from the less-than-eloquent Ms. Karney, telling me to go away, that she could spell as she saw fit and if I didn’t like it then too bad. I replied that she was indeed allowed to spell as she wanted, but I thought it made her look rather idiotic.
So I was suddenly a Grammar Nazi – derided, mocked, and ultimately my post deleted by the group admin because I was not nice. Because I did not accept the gross misuse of language and said something about it.
Internet culture would have you believe that we should just ignore the decimation of the English language – that to call it out is not only futile, but rude. As the admin of the group told my himself in a private message later:
Correcting someone’s grammar on social media is like trying to fill the grand Canyon with oranges. You can throw all you want but at the end of the day your just waiting [sic] your time.
As I was not the moderator of the group, I agreed with the moderator when he deleted my comments. He is free to censor his board the way he sees fit, and I respect that. But it still forced me to reevaluate my position on the board itself. The board is filled with people who think, believe, and act as Ms. Karney does. Despite their public (or private) school education, they choose to represent and present themselves in this way on social media.
I realized that, aside from sharing a joy of motorcycles and motorcycle riding, I have nothing in common with these people. I am an armchair philosopher, a student of critical thought, and a lover of the English language. As best as I can determine after a couple of years in the group, I stand alone in this regard. And so I chose to leave the group.
I am fully aware that the English language changes, grows, and evolves over time. I support that. Dialects, new words, regional spellings, etc. are all the wonderful ways in which the English language continues to stay relevant and keep up with the changing culture of our world.
What Ms. Karney is doing, though, is not that. The losing of vowels, abbreviated words, and “l33t” speak are all things I know and understand well – I am of THE original generation that started the Internet. There’s a time and a place for that – usually in text messages, although I long ago determined to minimize my bastardization of English in text messages. The mangled mess above is nothing more than an insult to those of us who love and cherish the English language. And to proudly and defiantly proclaim that she is RIGHT to do so and that I am the bad guy for crying foul just highlights how far apart I am from the other members of the group.
Words are magical, beautiful, things. Grammar and syntax are the basic ingredients of the spells we cast when we write. Sentences are spells. Paragraphs are incantations. And anyone can learn this magic; that’s the beauty of language. That one would chose to not learn it baffles me.
While I will overlook and ignore honest mistakes, I do not feel I should remain quiet when a travesty like the above is committed. It is not rude. It is rude, crass, and distasteful that a supposedly literate adult destroys the English language in this way.
Literacy is important, and based on what I see on Facebook, we have a serious literacy problem in this country. It’s not just the intentional decimation of words as Ms. Karney has done, it’s a general weakness in vocabulary, and in using and understanding the semantics of the English language.
And yet the Internet would have you think it’s ok , no – EXPECTED, for you to ignore it. And that’s sad, and dangerous. Any community that accepts mediocrity will inevitably sink below mediocrity. This is happening across the Internet.
I probably handled the situation incorrectly, and it’s a learning experience for me. Regardless, though, I choose to not accept mediocrity when it comes to literacy. Neither should you.