It’s not quite Valentine’s Day yet, but the topic of love is in the air. When I was in the dating pool, admittedly many decades ago, the L-word was sacred and not tossed around lightly – you ‘worked’ hard to earn hearing those 3 special words. Today this expression of genuine deep affection is tossed around as just another way to end a conversation – “love ya” – what’s happened to our communication? The formerly 3 most powerful words in our vocabulary, with the power to move mountains, reduced to a nod.
This shift in weight of the word ‘love’ brought me up short when my youngest daughter, at 15, was signing off her phone conversations with her then 17-yr old boyfriend with “love you” – ! Wow – did she know the implications of that word and potential ramifications of using it in this tender relationship? As I verbally flipped out on her, with my old-fashioned preconceptions, she casually informed me that everyone communicates that way today, and it doesn’t carry the same weighty meaning that it apparently did ‘back in the day’. This is unfortunate that love has degraded to such a point.
When the expression of this deep emotion is diluted, as it apparently is in our language today, we lose a channel to communication an important concept, that there is no other word to replace. The old concept of love went way deeper than just the surface – it was deep, it was heartfelt, it was solid, strong and steadfast. It meant something that was universally understood and respected. When we lose the ability to fully communicate that concept of love, that loss is lamentable.
Our English language is woefully lacking in being able to full describe meaning in so many areas. There just aren’t words to accurately describe specific situations, concepts, feelings. Then when the channel of communication – largely digital – is added to the language gap, our communication becomes more flawed. When “I love you” is reduced to “143”, “831” and “459” – wow! (How many of you over 30s knew that these 3 number sequences were all text speak for ILY?)
143 (1 meaning, 4 letters, 3 words), 831 (8 letters, 3 words, 1 meaning), 459 (ILY on keyboard)
1432 = I love you too (!)
Help! I’ve entered into a world that I no longer recognize! But the worse part of it is that in this new world deep, meaningful communication can be hard to achieve. Can you really express your feelings adequately in numbers? How much heartfelt meaning can you attach to 143? The younger generation is losing the ability to express themselves linguistically, if they ever even had the ability in the first place. They ask for a date and break up with a text. Who remembers how to have a real conversation anymore?
COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY: The goal should always be for clear communication, but in today’s world of near constant communication, with the availability of digital channels 24/7 and seeking the shortest way possible to expend minimal keystrokes, real communication gets short changed and meaning is sacrificed as unimportant (“oh, s/he knows what I mean…”). When meaning equates to not just love but the full range of emotions, we do a great disservice to important relationships. As constant and superficial communication become habitual, there should be no wonder as to why the meaning of an important word like “love” has eroded to the equivalent of “see ya”. This can be changed, but it requires real effort to do so.