x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Deciphering a secret teenage language

If you have ever to decipher a typical chat between teenagers on the computer, you might have realised that the content consists of practically, well, nothing.

Teenagers rely on the internet for everything from homework to communicating with friends. Voisin/Phanie / Rex Features
Teenagers rely on the internet for everything from homework to communicating with friends. Voisin/Phanie / Rex Features

If you've ever to decipher a typical chat between teenagers on the computer, you might have realised that the content consists of practically, well, nothing. For example: sup Matt$$$ says: nm m brd Matt$$$ says: w/e POS!!!!! Matt$$$ says: OMG!!!! k shes gn The traditional "sup" (what's up?), is always responded to with "nm" (nothing much, for the teen illiterate), which rather defeats the purpose of posing the question.

In my circle of friends' conversations, "m brd" (I'm bored) is not something they are allowed to omit, even if something interesting has happened, and "w/e" (whatever), features on the page about 23 times. The alarmed "POS!!!" (Parent over shoulder!!!) is frequently sent out, considerable consternation follows, and seeing as there are virtually no juicy secrets for prying parents to be generous with groundings for, the phrase could only be an excuse to spice up things a little.

Relief follows when the intruder leaves - "k shes gn" (OK, she's gone) - and all is well in cyber space once more. Perhaps the idea of being able to communicate with friends so easily, no costs involved, is unfathomable to adults. Maybe it's because they ran around hunting boar with spears in deerskins and lived in caves when they were young. Mum tells me that, although computers did exist when she was growing up, along with the motor car and the jet aeroplane, they were too large to fit in homes. It's understandable that you could phone each other to stay in touch but the questions I had to ask were: "How did you do your homework without the internet? How did you do anything?"

Apparently, they would trek to the library and find out what they needed if they didn't have the right book at home. I don't even know where the library is in Dubai. Then there are mobile phones. Even thinking about how teenagers lived without continuously texting gives me a headache, so I am not about to contemplate it too much. But I have to wonder what they did behind the shield of their schoolbags when they had a particularly boring teacher droning on about climate change (Had climate change been invented back then?).

Technological advances are all very well, but there is a downside. My friend Jess has her Facebook page permanently on. If she's out shopping, she will still take an occasional peek at her home page on her phone, and giggle between trying on shoes and perusing some oh-so-embarrassing pictures that someone posted. This is not beneficial to schoolwork or even a face-to-face social life. Much more serious, another friend, who is only 13, found her "dream guy", supposedly 19, on the site. It took a lot of persuading to stop her from meeting up with him.

Many teenagers claim they cannot study without their music blaring in the background, and when asked to turn it down, resort to iPods. I don't know why adults are so against us listening to music. There's a bit in the book iWoz by Steve Wozniak, founder of Apple, that I liked: "Artists work best alone - best outside the corporate environment. I don't believe anything revolutionary has been invented by a committee. Because the committee would never agree on it!"

Grown-ups are a bit like that committee: all ganged up to prevent us teenagers from, ahem, utilising technology to the fullest in order to understand it and pave new paths for future generations. It's not hard to believe that all parents are like that, but it is only fair to add that their Stone Age generation didn't sit twiddling their thumbs when they discovered what an unbearable, glaring hole their lives contained when they couldn't take their own music along on the way to the bus stop. It was their generation whopioneered the internet, leading to essential tools such as the iPhone, after all

* Lavanya Malhotra is a 14-year-old student in Dubai