How Social Media is Changing Language

There is no denying that social media has permeated into every aspect of our life today, even those that are antisocial. So it is any wonder that its effect is felt in our daily communication, and by that extension, on the language we use to communicate on these social media platforms?

Even before the advent of social media, English has been evolving over centuries, swayed by the current trends and usages. However, the dawn of free social platforms like Facebook and later on Twitter have expedited this transition until not only are new words being coined but the existing words are now acquiring a new meaning altogether. For example, words such as friend, unfriend, tag, poke, like, and block have been misappropriated such that they have developed a different meaning altogether. Even the wall in Facebook, where you can post comments and criticisms, has been reintroduced as timeline. This dynamic change in the way we communicate on various online platforms is also affecting our conversation offline. New words have insidiously trickled into our vocabulary that nowadays it is perfectly acceptable to say “I’ll Google it” when you need to look up information on the internet or to “tweet” someone. And such neologism is not just limited to informal situations but is creeping into the corporate business scenario as well.

Given the many online social media platforms (and emerging new ones), it is obvious speed is of the essence. Words like selfie and Google, which are not part of the traditional English language, have found their way in Oxford dictionary. A case in point being Oxford dictionary announced LOL as word of the year in 2013. Acronyms, the initialization of long phrases or words, have replaced long-winded words like LOL (laugh out loud), TTYL (talk to you later), and BRB (be right back) to save time. Emoticons or emojis are another means to not only shorten time but at the same time also convey a range of emotions, from happy to sad to angry. Moreover, since Twitter only allows 140 character posts, even if you’re not racing against time, your posts need to be pithy and succinct to catch and hold the reader’s attention. In light of these developments, users are increasingly finding faster and more efficient ways to communicate simultaneously with friends/relations across the world. “The less said, the better” is the mantra for the day, and perhaps this is why all our social media platforms give more weightage to photos than to words.

It would be foolish to deny the positive ripples of social media felt in our communities, but what about their effect on English, and more to the point, grammar and its myriad rules? With the need to reach out to your friends whether right across the planet or someone just a few blocks away in a shorter time, it is no longer so important, if at all, to be grammatically correct in our expression. To reinforce this statement, take a closer look at billboards, banners, or ad placements the next time you take a stroll. You will find incorrectly spelled and/or punctuated words that will tickle your funny bone. For those of us who learned the hard way in school that framing a perfect sentence with no spelling errors and with punctuations in the right place is of paramount importance, we have had to come to terms with using a new lingo that ignores and sometimes completely disregards the rules of grammar, sacrificing them at the altar of social media for the sake of speed and efficiency.

Considering that IoT is taking over the world and most of our communication is now digital, will using incorrect English become the norm? And even more important, will incorrect English become accepted and correct English over time? It remains to be seen.