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Dr. Max, Professional Therapist* *Not really
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Emoticonally Yours September 3, 1997

Dear Dr. Max,

I have been actively looking for love on the Internet for the past six months. After a seemingly endless number of disappointing encounters, I finally discovered what appeared to be my dream cyber-babe (I'll call her Laura) in a chat room dedicated to 70s and 80s television commercials. It wasn't just Laura's thorough knowledge of Calgon's "ancient Chinese secret" ad that impressed me, although that alone was certainly sufficient to pique my interest. This girl had it all... fast and accurate typing, expansive vocabulary, tasteful use of all caps... I could go on, but you get the picture. We hit it off immediately, so we sneaked off to an abandoned Hanson discussion area and got to know each other a bit better. Our relationship took off so quickly, I should have known it was too good to be true. 

The problems began to surface after nearly a week of regular meetings. At first it just manifested itself as an occasional acronym where previously there had been longhand compliments. I can understand the desire to save keystrokes, but "LOL" just rings false after repeated usage. But just when I was going to express my POV, she hits me with a smiley! What a slap in the face! Does she think I'm so stupid that I can't read when someone's happy or sad? I don't need an emoticon to tell me when someone's being sarcastic. I went to grad school, I know what irony looks like. 

At any rate Dr. Max, I've avoided getting online for the past few days because I'm not sure how to communicate with Laura anymore. I need to understand what kind of people use emoticons and acronyms so I can determine if we are truly compatible. I'm not getting any younger, but I don't want to get involved with some kind of shorthand freak. What should I do? 

upset@net.talk
 

Dear upset,

It's quite probable that yours was just one of many romantic threads which Laura was following at any given time. A typical behavior pattern for this type of individual is to entice a naïve netizen like yourself into becoming pen pals. This usually leads to more serious, romantic, correspondence. If this typographic predator feels especially challenged, she may display amazing abilities of pycho-sexual wordplay -- the traditionally strong language and typing skills of the female give her the upper hand in this arena. Once she's caught you, her interest level in you levels off to approximately that of a cat in a day-old dead lizard. In your case, the onset of this phase was signaled by her use of terse acronyms and emotionally void emoticons. She's not ready to finish you off, but she's preoccupied with other, fresher, kills while you're becoming dry and tasteless. 

Does any of this "fit?" 

It's very important that you not beat yourself up over this lost skirmish in the War of the Sexes. Moreover, you must take a much more adversarial, dare I say, "masculine," approach to your romantic interactions. The antidote for this type of hyper-communicator is to be oblique, semi-hostile, and patently uncommunicative. Good practice is to visualize yourself as James Dean, Humphrey Bogart or David Duchovny. Believe me, this works like Captain Kirk making a self-contradictory statement to a lady robot causing her to self-destruct. To sum up: More James Tiberius. Less Jean Luc. 
 

- Dr. Max

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