Does the web make us devolve?

Daniel Pataki
Dec 15, 2008
Updated • May 6, 2012

I know I've been into rants and criticizms more nowadays, and I really sat down to do a proper tech news story today, but I really can't let this one go. To kill the 5 minutes I had today I read a forum on "What's so funny about Family Guy" and while going through it, i'm seriously getting the feeling that the population is devolving.

"i liek te show bc of stewie an brian, i think r the funnist 1s" A-What? I mean I'm in my 20's, I've been using the internet for a while now so I should be specialist, but I mean the person who typed this either spent 20 minutes perfecting this, or fluently writes like this, which is actually quite a talent if he/she can also write properly. Another gem: "Srsly, i dun git it, wat's the big deal about teh show? imea sure I used to liek it, but the jokes now all recycled, adn refercnes are completely non plot consistent?"

Is it cool to write like that nowadays? I love the internet, but it's true, it is changing a culture a lot. I hesitate to deduce anything from this, but people not being able to write properly is happening more and more, and this is leaking into more and more places. I have gotten orders for websites from some people who can dish some serious money and talk like that (not that bad though), and, worst of all, they're in their 30's.

Do you guys think this is a sign of us getting stupider because with the net we can get away with more and don't have to try so hard? Is it just the natural reinvention of the language? Is everyone getting retarded?

Srsly, lt meyah no, wut y'all tink aboot dat!


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  1. Jojo said on December 18, 2008 at 11:56 am

    Perhaps so Joe. But bad habits tend to propagate. Kids communicating in shorthand means they don’t get practice in spelling and grammar. Unfortunately, this often carries over to when they aren’t kids any longer.

    There are many stories about younger people who don’t know how to write properly in the business world or even on their resumes.

    I have personally seen many abysmal writing examples from people with 4 year and MBA degrees.

    Here is an article that I think you will enjoy:

    Nearing ‘the claps of civilization’

  2. Joe Smooth said on December 17, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Regardless of age there will be members of society who push the boundaries of the norm. I’m sure we can all imagine a similar conversation in the 1960s regarding hair length. Although I agree that we can blame it on being too laziness or stupid I feel it is more likely just another example of individuality by conformity (ie: High school kids fight against uniforms and then wear identical outfits).

    So when my son refers to “Trees” he’s not stupid enough to think I won’t figure out he means “pot” and when my niece (Honors, AP, blah, blah, blah) sends e-mail with no punctuation and filled with spelling errors I don’t believe she is lazy just less concerned with something I find important and she does not.

    Either way the meaning was achieved (The guy didn’t thing Family Guy was funny, My kid is smoking pot and my niece wants more money) everything else is just Shakespeare. :)


  3. Jojo said on December 16, 2008 at 1:28 pm

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Agnotology, formerly agnatology, is a neologism for the study of culturally-induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. The term was coined by Robert N. Proctor,[1][2] a Stanford University professor specializing in the history of science and technology.[3] Its name derives from the Greek word ???????, agno-sis, “not knowing”; and -?????, -logia.[4] More generally, the term also highlights the increasingly common condition where more knowledge of a subject leaves one more uncertain than before.

  4. gm said on December 16, 2008 at 7:58 am

    It must. ‘Devolve’ is made to be the opposite of ‘evolve’ which is mistakenly taken to be an improvement. Evolve is simply to change.

  5. Tombpsyco said on December 15, 2008 at 7:02 pm

    I always considered myself a horrible speller. But todays text speak is showing up in work documents, on the txt msgs we snd tu ech udder. But I digress, I am a college educated person and I have much respect for my peers. So these people who try write with out using proper words or spelling need to go back to school. Hell I even text to friends in real full rich language, they hate it too.

  6. RG said on December 15, 2008 at 6:51 pm

    Internet is a ‘freeing’ tool. The ease of accessibility allows not only freedom but also participation. It becomes a better reflection of society each day. I am not going to sit here and talk as if I know how dumb or smart society is but one thing is pretty certain, the internet has to be becoming a closer reflection of reality. But not always creating the reality. An example of what I am saying is I know people who misspell easy words (they are not doing shorthand) and I think that’s something that comes from offline and is being reflected online.

  7. Doc said on December 15, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    “Leetspeak” evolved from the idea of “Let me express my individuality…so I can be like everybody else!” … which evolved from the “freedom of expression” movement of the 60’s.

    The problem with this is like others have said…it becomes “the lowest common denominator.” The only way to combat this is to firmly correct and/or ignore those that use it…”Speak/type correctly or be ignored.”

  8. User said on December 15, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    to tell you the truth, i think the advancement of the internet is causing the general populace to evolve. it’s much easier to share ideas and information with the internet than any other medium.

    if you use the internet frequently and you stay on tab with things, you notice that you are more intelligent than those who rarely/never get online…

  9. Chris Wuestefeld said on December 15, 2008 at 4:34 pm

    If a poster can’t take the time to write out their statement, have they taken to time to think it through first?

    I understand the use of this shorthand on cellphones, between the length limitations and the poor input method. Neither of these handicaps apply to Web forums or blog comments. It suggests to me that such folk are more eager to get their words in than to say something that adds substance to the conversation.

  10. Steven said on December 15, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    hmmm, this is a tricky question. One could understand the use of shorthand for users using mobile devices, but when it comes to sitting down with a decent keyboard there really shouldn’t be an excuse for these so called ‘internet shorthand’ posts. I wonder if this is because many users are stuck in some sort of ‘messenger syndrome’ which causes them to speed out this type of shorthand, which I suppose is fine when talking to another person one to one & who is also using the same type of writing, but writing on a site where many people will read, then it’s annoying & rather lazy.
    I don’t think it is devolutionary per se, more a sign of today’s up & coming sms generation.

  11. Daniel Pataki said on December 15, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Hi Guys!

    Actually I was a bit over cynical on this. I don’t actually think we are devolving, but standards are dropping too much I think.

    My girfriends little brother writes like that on the net all the time and he’s as smart as anybody else.

    I just don’t see why peopel have to talk like this, I’m not into the whole respect thing, but this is getting a bit out of hand. And I mean the net is NOT a cellphone, you don’t type messages like you were using a cellphone, this is not an excuse.

    I agree, it’s probably just the anonymity, but still…

  12. Sensaes said on December 15, 2008 at 8:02 am

    It’d make a wonderful headline: “Family Guy discussion uncovers hidden horror of Internet dyslexia. Iz we all d00md?” ;o)

  13. marcelo said on December 15, 2008 at 6:51 am

    one of the reasons for the shorthand method is cellphones. yeah, maximizing space to fit your message to only one text message has devolve people into thinking that all textbox has limits.

  14. g said on December 15, 2008 at 3:39 am

    i don’t think family guy is funny.

    i’m not sure how to say that in “internet shorthand”

    what is devolving are the amount of people who have learned to type.

    what we have here is a lack of communication. the internet has made it possible for non typers to emerge.

    the horror.

  15. Diablo1123 said on December 15, 2008 at 2:59 am

    I say that there are people who are like that everywhere, its just the internet allows to to act like idiots because of the anonymity.

  16. Yansky said on December 15, 2008 at 2:09 am


  17. Womble said on December 15, 2008 at 1:47 am

    I suppose it depends on the reason the person is doing it too. I mean I do it sometimes even verbally and i’m in my 40’s! but to be honest it’s purely tongue in cheek and most of the people in my circle of friends know where i’m coming from. I fully realise how ridiculous it sounds when I do it, that’s the whole point of it.

    As with most things there’s a time and a place.

    The web certainly hasn’t made us devolve, I will try my hands and many things now with the help of google, things I wouldn’t have dreamed about ten years ago when I was n00b ;)

  18. Rarst said on December 15, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Internet is just one more place to hang out, it doesn’t change people in any way.

    Looked cleaner in early years but the more people online the more it is like real world.

  19. Jojo said on December 15, 2008 at 1:25 am

    There were always a lot of stupid people, the internet just allows them to be more visible to a wider audience.

    As to the writing in texting shorthand, the problem is that this is how many people write all the time. I’ve read some stories where young people get into business, try to write like that and get slapped upside the head.

    But maybe we are moving to a world like the movie Idiocracy?

  20. zondron said on December 15, 2008 at 1:20 am

    the internet does not make one stupid, it’s because more stupid people are using internet these days

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