How do you solve a problem like the Jejemons?

Posted: December 31, 2010 in Something's Wrong!
Tags: , , , ,

How do you solve a problem like the Jejemons?
‘A lot of people think jejemon talk is cute. But its successful transmission can be attributed to the fact that idiocy, if wrapped in cuteness, can appear desirable… to other idiots’

By RONALD S. LIM
April 27, 2010, 12:31pm

By MB Graphics
What the heck are jejemons?

That has been the question on everybody’s mind ever since a picture of presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro holding a sign declaring that he would send all jejemons back to elementary school started circulating on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr.

The curious have usually been directed to Urban Dictionary, the open source website that provides definitions for popular culture terms. Jejemons are defined as “individuals with low IQs who spread around their idiocy on the web by tYpFing LyK diZS jejejeje.”

To make it more graphic, here is Urban Dictionary’s example:

miSzMaldiTahh111: EoW pFuOh!

You: Huh?

miszMaldiTahh111: i LLyK tO knOw moR3 bOut u, PwfoH. crE 2 t3ll mE yur N@me? jejejejeje!

You: You are a jejemon! Don’t talk to me!

miszMaldiTahh111: T_T

But even before making its debut on Urban Dictionary, the word “jejemon’’ has been making sporadic appearances elsewhere on the web. On Pinoy Tumblr, for instance, “jejemon” appeared on a post made on April 14 about vice-presidential candidate Jejomar Binay — complete with a fake campaign poster calling him “Jejemon Binay”.

It makes an even earlier appearance on the My Ragnarok Online Forum. In a post that went up on March 14 entitled “Jejemon ka ba?”, user Deviluke points out that most jejemon wear baggy clothes and sport jejecaps – rainbow caps usually worn backwards and just placed on top of one’s head.

Artuji.com points out that “jeje” enjoys popular usage among Spanish-speaking countries as a word to denote laughter. “Jejemon” sprung from its combination with the subculture spawned by popular Asian anime, “Pokemon”.

NEW POP PHENOMENON

Whatever its origins, the word is now a pop culture phenomenon, spawning numerous groups that are for or against it on Facebook. The biggest anti-jejemon group, Gotta Kill ‘Em All, Jejemon has more than 88,000 members, while jEjEmon uNite has less than 500 members.

Administrators and members of Gotta Kill ‘Em All, Jejemon seem to agree that the term “jejemon” was first coined a month ago, but the behavior attributed to jejemon was around for much longer.

“This kind of typing started when text messaging became famous and they used it to shorten long text messages,” says Kahel, one of the administrators of Gotta Kill ‘Em All, Jejemon.

“I first encountered them in high school. Mobile messaging was the newest and hottest technological trend then,” says 24-year-old quality analyst Aldrin Fauni-Tanos. “Like dinosaurs, their existence preceded their discovery and categorization.”

MAJOR IRRITANT

The initial reaction to jejemon talk was the same across the board – irritation and bewilderment.

“I am shocked that they text like that because I really can’t understand the messages. I just had to accept the fact that some people have ‘skills’ to make language oh so despicable,” recalls 19-year-old Nheigeio Balatbat, also an administrator of Gotta Kill ‘Em All, Jejemon.

But how does one exactly become a jejemon?

It starts with the slippery slope of text messaging.

Fourteen-year-old Zee Puerto is an incoming high school student and is also an administrator of Gotta Kill ‘Em All, Jejemon. Unlike the other administrators, Puerto has a much more intimate connection with the jejemons that the group is so vehemently against.

“I was one of them way back. Texting was one of the most important media that made an impact on jejemons. When my friends started to text like that, they also influenced me. I started typing like them, like using ‘x’ instead of ‘s’,” he admits. “But when they started to use extra letters it began to annoy me.”

For others, it is just a style, comparing it to “leet speak”, a globally accepted form of writing that is used by the intellectual geek community.

“Style lang, parang sa Jose, ‘H’ ‘yung pagbasa sa ‘J’. Parang leet speak. Ewan ko kung bakit ngayon lang lumabas ang mga haters,” explains 14-year-old student Jella Mella, who texts like a jejemon but refuses to be called one. “Bigay lang ng mga haters ang pangalan na jejemon kasi ‘jeje’ ang tawa namin.”

These jejemons, according to Fauni-Tanos, have nobody to blame but themselves. “A jejemon has no one else to blame but himself,” he says. “A lot of people think it is cute. Its successful transmission can be attributed to the fact that idiocy if wrapped in cuteness can appear desirable…to other idiots.’’

SPELLING NAZIS

Since bursting into the public consciousness, hate has been something that jejemons are likely to encounter, online or off the Internet. Mella says that her Facebook wall has encountered its own share of haters who have wished for her death.

“‘Bumalik ka na sa planeta niyo, p*******a mong jejemon ka, bakit hindi ka pa mamatay.’ May nag-post niyan dati sa wall ko,” she shares. “Wala naman kaming ginagawang masama sa kanila. Hindi nila kami kilala, bakit nila kami i-jujudge?”

The excessive amount of vitriol directed at the jejemons has gotten the attention of some celebrities, who decry the hate being directed towards the group. Musician Rico Blanco, for instance, has called for calm on his Twitter account.

“Easy lang friends, di naman naba-badtrip sa inyo mga jejemon pag-umo OMG at lumulurkey kayo. Walang pakialamanan ng trip,” he states on a tweet posted on April 23.

Actress Alessandra de Rossi and broadcaster Ces Drilon have also condemned the wholesale ridicule that the group has received.

Even the administrators of the Gotta Kill ‘Em All, Jejemon fan page have begun to realize that the energy directed towards embarrassing and humiliating jejemon could be better directed towards more constructive activities.

“I think the hate was overreaction,” says Balatbat. “I know of people who join jejemon hate groups just so they can kill time insulting people, but some of the insults and curses cross the line. These people are humans too. So to protect their rights, I and my fellow administrators have decided to have censorship rules on our fan page.’’

“Annoyance is natural and expected, but I think hating them is an overreaction. There will always be people who will offend you or annoy you for the things that they do,” agrees Fauni-Tanos. “The question is: are they doing this to directly annoy you or is it simply because they do not know any better? I have a feeling that the majority of jejemons simply do not know that ‘jejenese’ is a poor reflection of their intelligence.”

SHOULD DEPED BE ALARMED?

Should English teachers and the Department of Education be concerned about the popularity of jejemons? The online consensus seems to think that they should be.

“Once you become used to a certain way of life, you’ll adapt it unconsciously. I’ve seen a valedictorian use jejetyping and I was disappointed with the grammar in her Friendster account,” says Balatbat.

“The problem is that most people lack the will to ‘upgrade’ their own intelligences. Many Filipinos are fine with mediocrity: having enough of this and that, having enough school and education to survive,” adds Fauni-Tanos. “Not too many people want to know more. Thus, most are fine with substandard language as long as it can be understood.”

Most agree that simply making jejemons aware of their actions will be enough to put them off.

“Jejemons and jejemon-friends need to be informed that their language is more of a barrier than a medium. It takes too much effort to read, and I doubt if it is actually easier to compose than a phrase in standard Filipino or English,” explains Fauni-Tanos.

And for the most part, it seems to be working. Mella has this to say about how all the attention directed towards jejemons has affected the way she communicates:

“Ayaw ko na minumura ako ng mga tao kaya pinipigilan ko na magsulat ng jeje.”

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