The exclamation was once reserved for moments of surprise, exhibitions of exhilaration, outbursts and ejaculations (the verbal kind). Now it's used to express mere interest or even to show that you've actually paid attention. You see it in emails and text messaging and tweets--microbursts of information; "Sounds great! I'll meet you there!"; "Thanks for letting me know. I'll let you know how it goes!"; "Have a great day!"
The exclamation point has become the crutch of inauthentic people; the point is to show that you are someone you are not, saying things you don't believe. It is the textual penis raping our language and violating us at the end of every 140 characters.
We are so starved for attention and require validation for every syllable we utter, print, or publish; our reaction to the passe and banal is feigned excitement and urgency we neither feel nor believe in, yet expect others to feel for us and our mundane matters. When we respond to the trivial, we want others to believe we are interested, but the medium seems engineered to transmit little sentiment, so we compensate by adding pomp and flair to what is and should be a vanilla reply. The spurious dash confers sensation onto mere information.
A common defense of the orthographic excess is that the exclamation point helps convey friendliness. "Thanks!" is friendlier than "Thanks." To that I say, what made friendliness the arbiter of transient information exchanges? If anything, the exclamation adds to the information processing power requirement, the excitement increases energy usage, an unnecessary waste in this conservation age. And at what point does my exclamation become so overused as to become irrelevant or ironic? Are we so impoverished by the efficiency of the medium that we must feed it Twinkies?
I won't go so far as to equate our national obsession with the textual bang and sex--that's a job for the anthro-apologists. But think about these bursts of information we exchange--tweets and text messages are like the eponymous quickie: short and sometimes sweet, but almost never foundational and nearly always forgettable. We rarely ascribe much value to the average transmission. Our insertion of the exclamation point is like the end of the conquest portion of a short and torrid affair.
Think of the euphemisms for the exclamation point. Smash. Bang. Words of destruction, of pain, of loud noises and painful deliveries. And we can't just say something. We have to shout; we have to be louder than anyone else, even when we're replying to someone.
While these display more excitement than the response warrants, isn't it clear that what's driving these unnecessary spikes of textual adrenaline isn't actual excitement, but the pathological need to be needed? Aren't these ejaculatory points the defining feature of our ADHD culture, the tabloid urge for scandal and intrigue in a society ruled by the tweet? If we are to be judged by every jot and tittle, wouldn't the verdict be "too much banging?"