Pop Culture
Jun 13, 2018, 06:27AM

Say What You're Saying

A command is not a question.

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Look, I get it, I do. I know. I understand. Modern life is overwhelming and exhausting—every day so packed with details and errands so minuscule that, when considered at a remove, it mimics the complexity of an old-fashioned pocket watch. Look at all those gears, engineered and arrayed just so, employed in very precise, painstaking service. Damn.

Yes—you want existence to be easier. Yes, you want the world streamlined, greased, even, just for you. Yes, you will gladly pay through the nose for the HOV lane. Yes, you will download the app to expedite the order or guarantee the appointment. Yes, you will text by speaking out loud then send without a cursory proofread. Yes, you will implicitly view others’ free creative work as your inalienable right.

But: no, you shall not pose one-word questions on social media platforms. No, no, no, no. You may not, you cannot, you shall not. You may be a nearly-drained reservoir of purpose adrift in a dreamworld of emoticons. You may be unimaginably busy. You may be on the verge of death. None of that matters, because you have a responsibility to yourself and to humanity to retain some degree of sentience in the face of technology’s enabling infantilism, and because you are not a helpless child.

Write out a full fucking question. When someone posts an image of a comic book and you’re curious about it, ask not “Issue?” but rather “What issue is this from?” When you’re confused about the source of a quote or an idea a friend has introduced, ask not “Link?” but rather “What or who is the source for this?” If someone shares a song, ask not “Album?” but rather “What album was this song on?”

Most answers to these questions are easily found online, but discussion is key to community and connection; certainly, there’s no shame in inquiry. In boiling interest down to a single word and a question mark, though, you run the risk of appearing only fleetingly invested in a discussion, and resembling the platonic idea of everyone’s asshole boss. All it takes to avoid that: a bit more care, a smidgen of energy, some respect for the person or audience you’re addressing.

  • I wonder how the command/response of voice activated tools like Google Home or Amazon Echo or even Siri will effect our ability to communicate with each other. I find myself wanting to say "please" when I ask Alexa for the weather. Or to say "thank you" when "she" delivers an answer. I know i don't have to--it's just words in the air to a bot. But if these devices became a part of our world, we further lose the power of politeness just as you suggest. I almost wish Amazon and Google would provide a "politeness" requirement in the code. My favorite part of your post is the risk of becoming like an asshole boss with the one word command. It's a lack of respect, really. And we need to do everything we can to respect ourselves and others by remembering the little things do, in fact, matter.

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