On the Complexities of Discourse

When watching Korean shows there are a host of cultural differences that throw themselves at me, some of them, the constant commenting on the attractiveness and weight of the women on the shows is something that I can, in a very weird way, accept. Not approve you must understand, but such concepts are not so foreign as to provide an unpassable gulf. Yet there is one instance that never quite recedes into my mental cache of ‘Oh that’s different, moving on’ and that is the formal/informal way of speaking, determined primarily by whether one speaker is older or younger than the person they are speaking too, ultimately if closeness develops then that can be overridden. This also leads to people unfamiliar with each other saying their ages so they can determine the hierarchy of politeness in speaking. When this interchange happens and it happens not irregularly, it never ceases to amaze me, as short of the little used (in normal conversation) and gendered honorifics conferred on boys when they become men and women when they become married, we have nothing like the Korean system in the UK*. Then in a moment of madness, I installed Snapchat and had the realization of a new, not specifically called out way of exchanging messages. Before the internet a message was only stored in perpetuity if the reader thought it was important or if it was considered protocol to do so. Then this wonderful thing came along and we decided; ‘Aw hell, let’s store everything!’ This, by and large, I consider a fantastic thing, slightly embarrassing for those who grew up and have random ramblings spilled all over cyberspace from when their were far too young to have anything worth saying. But that cost is only in red cheeks and is more than paid when you find a speech that a politician would rather everyone forget, it lends weight to words and hopefully the realization that promising to save the NHS then doing your darndest to tear it to pieces is something that cannot, thanks to the plurality of the internet, be buried.


So into this new and brave paradigm, comes an app that’s purpose is to create, as the Wiki page so helpfully lists, ephemera. An acknowledgment in form of language that is impermanent, you write ‘I love you’ on Facebook and you can delete it, sure, but we know Facebook, that post isn’t necessarily gone and god forbid you send an email with those words. That same message on Snapchat is by its nature, impermanent, it’s ‘I love you [for now]’, like reality it makes no promises for eternity. The function of Snapchat is to replicate reality in a way that the internet doesn’t, in real life we say stupid and dumb stuff to our friends and we don’t expect ten years down the line for someone to call us out on it. There are, indeed, instances of people going around the Snapchat mechanics to get that picture of you with the duck face saved for all time but that too is not absent from recollection. So, to return, ponderously, to my original point, it’s odd, just as odd as using ages to determine a speaking hierarchy to have this deterministic venue where, in knowing our words are, to use that fine word, ephemeral, we are more easy and carefree in what we say. The same is true for the difference between the public venue of Twitter and that of the semi-private (but not really) arena of Facebook, yet as far as I’m aware none of my friends have posted pictures of themselves on the toilet to Facebook, in that Snapchat reigns supreme.


* That people are given titles by Royal assent and by, if their ancestors were lucky enough to kill for the right monarch, hereditary titles, is something that I am ignoring as it is both silly and unused in the exchange of words by the public at large.

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