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Communication, abbreviation, consternation

OK, so I recently saw a tweet that was punctuated with a picture polished fingernails and I have no idea what that was supposed to convey. I was able to search on the internet for a sort of emoji translator—I still don’t really understand the nuance, but I have a verbal version (indicates nonchalance) that will more or less do.

But I’m wondering… Is this going to happen to me increasingly frequently as I get old? I don’t expect to share a whole lot of cultural references with Young Persons, but I am able, more or less, to figure out what bye, Felicia means in context. I expect there to be a lot of slang I don’t know (I need not be aware of the nuances of Becky as a disparagement, for instance) and I am often behindhand learning the nicknames by which celebrities are currently known, and so forth. There are catchphrases that I recognize as being catchphrases without knowing where they are from, but I often can tell what the mean, more or less, or why someone chose to repeat them at that moment.

At some point, probably soon, I will have drifted far enough away from the culture of Young Persons that even that will become tenuous guesswork. As I will presumably be interacting with fewer and fewer Young Persons, I may or may not notice—I will hang around with Old Folk and reference the Ice Capades and Rick Dees. All that seems to me perfectly normal; my parents, presumably, went through something similar in regards to things being gnarly.

What seems strange to me is, well, first of all that I am still seeing lots of things written by Young Persons who are punctuating their tweets with tiny pictures, and further to that that I want to still see lots of things written by Young Persons, particularly politico-social commentary. I mean, I haven’t really retreated into a bubble at all—at least on-line. The internet means that I am skimming from a bubbling cauldron of generational whatnottage, and while the few dozen people I actually follow on Twitter are mostly of an age with me, the stuff they pass along is a surprisingly wide net. Not politically wide, I mean, although I do see a few Conservatives who are actually Conservative and not wild-eyed rightist radicals, but demographically wide, which is a Good Thing for me and me perception of the universe, even if it makes me work harder to keep up.

And then also: it seems to me fundamentally different that the things I cannot understand are pictorial references, rather than verbal references. I’m not sure I can defend that—had the tweet in question been followed by the text [painting nails] I don’t think I would have understood it better. I suppose I have more difficulty picking up context clues with the tiny pictures, particularly in knowing what is being used as sarcasm-punctuation, or when the picture is essential to the point and when it is not. When a pundit re-tweets another publication’s headline and adds a thinking-face or a pair of eyeballs, that indicates disagreement with the tweeted article, right?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,
-Vardibidian.

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