“I’m literally dead right now” is how most people these days choose to express that they find something funny. “LMAOOO I’M CRYINGG OMGGG” is a common response to a meme that might make one crack a smile. “Snatch my weave and drag me on the floor until I die” is an actual thing that I heard someone say the other day. At this point, I’m beginning to feel like I’m out of the loop here. Is there some kind of inside joke where every human being is obligated to speak in nothing but complete exaggeration?
For as long as I can remember, I have had a reverence for the power and beauty of words. Granted, growing up, I temporarily subscribed to the colloquialisms that came with being a teenager—at one point I used the word ‘like’ way more often than I would like to admit– -but, nevertheless, my respect for the weight that my words carried eventually triumphed. Over time, though, I observed that while words continued to hold a place in my heart, they had faded in everyone else’s.
I am aware that there are many out there who still see the value in semantics. But the eternal pessimist in me can’t help but see a decline in vernacular and literary achievements reminiscent of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Television has become our main source of information, and as a result there is a lamentable decline in appreciation of the written word. A cursory glance at the Teens’ or Young Adults’ section of any bookstore reveals a disheartening lack of writing that does not involve teen romances with vampires and/or werewolves. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing—I myself immensely enjoyed the Twilight series—but it does, however, make for a lower class of literature than one might perhaps find on an AP suggested reading list.
Over the years, I have slowly observed a downward progression towards a watered-down version of the English language—one that assumes the need for exaggerated emphasis in order to make a point. One can’t simply say: “I’m tired.” One must instead say, “Jesus Christ, I am so fucking exhausted I could sleep for ten years.” It is my personal theory that this culture of hyperbole is what feeds into our desire to magnify our every minute suffering until it seems gargantuan, allowing us to then feel sorry for ourselves. It is then a vicious cycle of feeling unjustified in our misery, widening the gaps between us and our fellow humans, and trying to fill the void that we feel as a result of insufficient human contact.
As a Millennial, I am all too aware of the differences that technology has created in the daily lives of a large portion of the world. At times the collective desire to consume and the near-constant immersion in technology is shocking even to me. However, I can easily say that what is most upsetting to me about this change is the fact that hyperbole has become a staple in speech and indeed, a language in and of itself. It is as if we have become numb to the power of our own words, to the meaning that we can convey without the convenience of caps lock or the word ‘literally.’ And in this disregard for our own words, we dilute the impact that our words do have.
What we say should be concrete, resolute, and to-the- point. Our words should be representations of ourselves. Our words have power, impact, and importance, and they should be treated as such.