University of Toronto linguists have demonstrated that the influx of IM lingo does not actually affect the syntax of teenagers. I have before argued against the use of shorthand language such as LOL, c-ya, etc, though not because it affects syntax or spoken language but because it demonstrates a degradation in written forms of speech.
I actually have no problem with the use of the IM lingo, usually. I use it occasionally as well. When texting on a cell phone, it is actually quite handy to get a message across to reduce it to a shorthand that everyone seems to agree on. It even shows an innovation among the younger generation with language. I like all of these traits. Language is alive. It grows, it changes, it evolves to fit the needs of the culture in which it is spoken.
My worry (and complaint against the IM shorthand) is the degradation of the artform of writing. Fewer and fewer among us are able to write coherently, let alone concisely and well. It's becoming increasingly rare to run across a blog that doesn't employ the shorthand and general disregard for the rules of writing. And no one seems to mind.
Of course, I'm exaggerating somewhat. One of my daily sites, A Dress A Day, regularly employs great writing. I'm entertained and inspired, and especially amused when she points out bad grammar and poor writing. Yay, Erin. Appreciation for good writing is certainly not dead.
I just look at these teenagers running around and think--do they appreciate good writing? If they grow up writing with a bastardized language, will they ever be able to value the beauty of a well-written work? Will literature die at their hands? Will they gasp at the wonder that is Emily Dickinson's poetry, Shakespeare's plays, or even beautifully written, beautifully illustrated graphic novels such as Astro City and others? I have to wonder if they'll even be able to sense the pulse in John Donne's art or the wicked wit of John Dryden and Alexander Pope. It requires a precision in writing and an awareness of language that this IM shorthand does not seem capable of. Not being able to fully comprehend the methods and creativity it takes to write like the great masters, will our literature simply descend into a chaos of jumbled language, misspelled words and shorted phrases?
I hope not. Perhaps teenagers will be able to effortlessly write in both forms, and our future literary masterpieces will be saved. Or perhaps we'll get used to reading a chopped up, horrible scribble and come to think of it as art.
As for me, I'll be the old crotchety English professor in the corner that the kids roll their eyes at when I start fussing about the days when writing was actually a long, creative process instead of hastily jotted down words and thoughts, so hasty that spelling and capitalization, forget about syntax, are lost in the dust.