Anyone who was born in the 1990s can remember watching The Amanda Show on Saturday nights. I most definitely remember these days when Spongebob actually came out with good episodes, All That was the Saturday Night Live for teenagers, and The Amanda Show was perhaps its greatest spinoff (though plenty of people would argue that Kenan & Kel take that title). There was a sketch called "Totally Kyle" where Drake Bell would begin with a guitar solo and then tell a story. The story would roughly follow this kind of format: "Ummm... one time... I was walking my dog... and I like... tripped on a rock... and I like... fell... and I was like... ouch!" I'm almost positive none of the sketches followed this format, but it's certain that he used the word "like" plenty of times when he spoke. While we saw this as a bit ridiculous upon seeing this and we saw Kyle as being completely zoned out, fifteen years later, most people use the word "like" in their vocabulary as a way to connect one thought to another. In all honesty and with all due respect to the people that use "like" when they don't need to, it's a sad, disturbing truth that this is hurting verbal communication.
At one point in time, I was intrigued to take a tally on how many times the word "like" was used improperly to replace "ummm," "ahhhhh," "uhhhhh," or a pause in order to signify either a transition in thought or an unnecessary word used to precede an example or second thought. A prime example would be during a British Literature class, someone would say, "Hamlet's father was killed and he was... like... feeling depressed." For the record, I DID take a British Literature class, but I DID NOT hear this exact statement. I've heard the word "like" used in my classes, but nobody said something to this caliber.
Why do people use "like" improperly and pause so often? The answer is simple: Technology is taking over our lives so drastically that it has changed the way we communicate. We are in an age where texting through a smart phone and social networking have become the way of life. In fact, people have found it much more comforting to communicate with somebody through their cell phone than they do in person. This means that I could be a friend of yours and I'm in the same room as you, but your attention is on the friend that's texting you from their toilet in another state. Of course, we have yet to reach the point where the friend in the room garners less attention. For now, face-to-face communication is yet alive. Though we may very well see a future with which electronic communication, whether by phone, computer, or any other advanced tool, is far more common and appropriate.
If there's one thing technology has done to our train of thought, it's the fact that it has caused us to think much slowly as an individual. While it's nice to see that we're thinking before we say something that may come off as being hurtful, this has also shown in how people communicate with one another when they're doing so the old-fashioned way. They pause and use the word "like" in order to make it seem like the conversation is flowing just as a common conversation would sound. Unfortunately, using the word "like" excessively isn't hiding very much. It just makes it sound like Totally Kyle has created several spawns.
I will admit, my verbal train of thought is slightly spaced as well. Some of that could be seen from episodes of Literary Gladiators. Speaking of which, a new episode will be up tomorrow!!! I do, however, do my best to refrain from using "like" as a "filler word." In its authentic ways, "like" is meant to be used as a compliment (such as "I like you"), as a mean of comparison (such as "he looks just like you"), or in similes (such as "like poetry in motion"). I also feel that technology also offers plenty of positive attributes. As long as we are the ones running technology and it's not the other way around, such a tool could be deemed to have brought the greatest impact to the human age.
My key piece of advice would be to start by pausing instead of using the word "like." While it may sound like a stammer at first, once you get the hang of it, the word "like" won't be used improperly. Of course, I'm not angry at people who use "like" improperly, it's just a warning about how technology should not have to hurt face-to-face communication and damage the execution of a verbal statement. At the same time, thinking before you speak has come off as being a positive. For the record, I too will do my best to add a flow to my spoken statement.