ok SO. a lot of this comes from various stuff i’ve seen on the linguistics of tumblr, but at the heart of it is that people in my generation (at least in the us; idk abt other countries’ timelines on this front) went thru (or are still going thru) our Formative Social Years in an environment where we’d regularly interact with even our closest friends on text-only platforms (whether texting or gchat or fb messages or w/e), and b/c so much linguistic/social information is actually conveyed by facial expression and tone of voice, we’ve collectively made up all of these textual ways of conveying that in a concise, efficient way
so like, sometimes on this blog i’ll talk about “straight people”, and sometimes i’ll talk about “str8 ppl”, and even tho i would pronounce those the same, the first is much more neutral — it would probably happen in the context like “i’m not sure how i feel about straight people writing stories that center around experiences of homophobia” — than the second, which which is much more frustrated/venting — it would be more likely to crop up in the context of “all i want is to live quietly in my little queer utopia but no str8 ppl have to come along and heteronomativity UGH #over it #whatever #NOT RLLY OVER IT”. or even with more subtle things like end punctuation: “i’m not going” basically just means i’m not currently planning to go to the thing; “i’m not going.” carries much more of a connotation of “i have seriously considered going and have Reasons for staying at home” (and note that capital — “i have Reasons for staying at home” feels different than “i have reasons for staying at home”). (and this isn’t even getting into things like shitposting or advanced memeology, but there are specific textual markers that go with things like that, some of which would be pronounced if you read them aloud, but many of which wouldn’t be)
but, crucially, for these kinds of things to carry meaning, they have to be used consistently: if i use “str8 ppl” and “straight people” interchangeably in all contexts (as i do for something like “the supreme court” vs “scotus”), then there’s no way to develop a distinction in meaning between the two — the only way to do that is to consistently use the different orthographies in different contexts. (to take another example: if something is “great”, then it’s solidly good. if something is “gr8”, it’s more in the land of “i can’t quite believe this is as earnest/tacky/tasteless as it is but i’m weirdly into it anyway?” (sometimes with a side helping of “do i just enjoy this ironically or do i genuinely enjoy it there is no way of knowing please send help”))
the upshot of this is that to be fluent in tumblr (or texting, or fb messenger, or w/e) means to actually be paying a lot of attention to subtle points of grammar and spelling, to know when to use “did u kno” or “ur” or even pull out an old-fashioned tip of the hat to “e733T haxxor 5killz”. most of these are very subtle distinctions, the kind of things you feel intuitively rather than write out explicitly, and so it’s very hard to convey them concisely and accurately to someone who’s not already immersed in the linguistic environment
and let’s be real, people in my parents’ generation aren’t. i mean, sure, many of them have facebook accounts, but these kinds of platforms weren’t around when they were in their “really getting to grips with social interaction” years, and their most important social interactions usually don’t take place exclusively online. for me, all of my closest friends are people i’ve only interacted with online for more than a year now (with a few brief face-to-face visits when various travel arrangements have allowed), so tumblr, facebook, and gchat are absolutely critical to my social life and interpersonal interactions; for my parents, their closest friends are people they see in person at work every day, so social media is a light overlay to their social lives, not the thrumming core
as such, my parents don’t grok these distinctions. to them “what are you doing?” means the same thing as “lol wut r u doing”; “gr8” is just like “great” (and “gr9” takes some parsing … ); dogespeak doesn’t have the same distinctive valence that it does to us. since they don’t know about these distinctions, they don’t feel the need to maintain more “proper” spelling/grammar when texting with a friend — different people have different set points for this, obvs, but in general i feel like “standard (setting aside all the class and racial implications in that term …) spelling and grammar” (with lighter-than-standard punctuation and capitalization) translates to “relatively neutral/pleasant conversational voice”, and then deliberate misspellings, abbreviations, letter substitutions, and grammar deviations are markers used to indicate shifts in mood — i have a vague sense that bitterness tends to collapse down and preserve grammar but weird spelling (“lyk w/e im happy 4 u but pls, i kno u lied 2 get that”) whereas enthusiasm tends to preserve spelling but weird grammar (“what i can’t even no how do air AMAZE”). since people in my parents’ generation don’t realize that doing so unintentionally changes the way their words come across, they feel free to text “poorly” (ie with lots of errors/substitutions, generally mixing various text-flagged vocal tones in ways that are often incoherent) in order to do so more quickly (b/c lbr typing everything out can be a pain (esp on a non-smartphone), and since parents don’t do it as much, they’re not necessarily as fast as our spry young fingers on a familiar interface)
so yeah, that’s what i suspect is going on
tl;dr: parents don’t use orthography to mark vocal tone in the way youngfolk do, and thus feel free to condense their texts and otherwise use textspeak. youngfolk are using orthography to mark for tone, and thus text more “correctly” to preserve their social intentions
Which is something that leads to some confusion between parents and children – I’ve gotten really upset over some of my mother’s texts because they have a period at the end, and in order to be neutral, they need to not have a period. And then I remember that the way she composes text messages (and, incidentally-not-incidentally, the way my boyfriend composes messages in text) come from a different tonal background, and they don’t use orthography in the same way to convey mood. It’s weirdly difficult to code-switch texting, I think.
I’ve been referring to this particular phenomenon as having a vivid sense of typographical register, but I think it also fits well into the broader sociolinguistic idea of style-shifting. If you don’t communicate via technology that much, you basically have just one style (or maybe a simple split between formal like a professional email and informal like a text), but the more computer-mediated friendships you develop, the more you develop ways of communicating textually with all the subtle shifts in nuance that you also have offline.