Not sure whether it’s a common phenomenon, or whether it’s just one of the by-products of living in the chav capital of the world, but one of the more bizarre behaviours common to the younger generation around these parts is a total inability to speak normally. We’re not talking about dropping consonants or slurring vowels, mangling the language or even accentuating the accent beyond what is strictly necessary; rather it’s the weird and highly amusing affectations that the yoof of today choose to adopt when expressing themselves.
My absolute favourites are the wannabe rappers – teenagers for whom conversation can only take place if it’s in a monotone, 120 beats per minute, barely taking a breath, gangsta rap cavalcade of nonsense.
“Yo, bro I’m goin’ down to Tesco’s
gonna cruise in the car park for some fresh ho’s
you can come, if you hold my carrier bags
and lend me a fiver to buy some fags”
Throw in the swagger, the jeans hovering below the butt cheeks and the obligatory can of Red Bull and you find yourself wondering why you ever thought some of the characters you come across in sl were over the top, because they’re positively normal in comparison.
People can get caught up in playing a character, sometimes without even noticing it. It can be the rap-obsessed teenager, the black-clad, white-faced goth or the Beverley Hills styled trophy babe/bro who prefixes every sentence with ‘like‘ and presents each statement as a rising interrogative. Then there are the affectations that normally rational people take on when they wish to make an impression or fit in with the group – all patently fake, and to us the outside observer, completely risible… right up to the point we suddenly realise we’re equally guilty at times of doing exactly the same thing.
Things are a little different in sl – being a primarily visual environment, and one in which the options to change our appearance are limitless, it’s far more likely that the way we look will have the desired effect – there’s little need for the phoney accents, affected manner or over-exaggerated nuances because the visual clues are so powerful. SL is very much a WYSIWYG environment where there’s no need to work quite so hard at other aspects of characterisation in order to show an affinity that shows our belonging to our chosen ‘tribe’. Indeed, that can facilitate the easy transition across various personalities without the need to ever really deviate from being ‘ourselves’ – a few minutes re-creating our look, and we can flit effortlessly from Hells’ Angel to Charlie’s Angel, without the need to intrinsically take on a different persona, outlook or character. We remain ourselves whilst our avatar does all the hard work.
However, there’s always an exception to the rule, and in sl it’s one that can be incredibly irritating to ‘outsiders’ – that is those who don’t subscribe to that particular manifestation of virtual characterisation – and is widely misunderstood, misinterpreted and can be a complete mystery to many, myself included.
It is that fascinating, yet to the outsider, bizarre persona of the SL baby girl, (oddly, those who choose to manifest themselves as male youngsters don’t seem to be similarly afflicted): The baby-talking, twee lolitas of the virtual world. You know the ones… their profiles are filled with gushing tributes to ‘family’ members, spelled out in in faux script and UTF characters to the point where only the truly initiated can read it. Their speech is similarly augmented and punctuated by accents that any self-respecting adult avatar struggles to comprehend.
Yet, no matter how you may feel about such avatars or their human operators, spend some time observing their behaviours inworld and the overwhelming impression you get is that those who choose to express themselves in such a way that the majority may consider childish, weird, even uncomfortable seem to exhibit an innate joy and fundamentally innocent pleasure in the virtual world in which they find themselves.
No, I don’t understand it, and yes, it does leave me feeling vaguely discomforted, but I console myself that I don’t actually have to engage with anyone that I don’t particularly feel the need to, and that the real weirdos, freaks and monsters in SL are probably in the minority. Ultimately – how others choose to experience their virtual lives is really none of my business at all.
It’s not my thing.
But, live and let live, I say.
You were a child
Crawling on your knees toward him
Making momma so proud
But your voice is too loud
MGMT – Kids