With 80 percent of teen Internet users frequenting social media sites, it’s no wonder our real world social lives are seeing some changes. Though some parents worry about a future of poor grammar and verbal textspeak, most signs point to a more promising reality. Social media use requires some unique adaptations, but it also provides us with a whole new way to communicate.
Social media sites like Twitter that impose a character limit force users to condense their thoughts. For many, this results in excessive use of textspeak. This type of shorthand involves a whole new language of abbreviations.
Some popular terms like LOL (for “laugh out loud”) have evolved into unique words that have a meaning greater than their original abbreviation. LOL is now used to add a joking or lighthearted inflection to messages almost like a type of punctuation. It doesn’t always indicate literal laughter. This is just one example of how Internet and text shorthand is becoming a language all its own.
Where writing was once a solitary activity, it has now become a very social way to communicate. Before the Internet, most people wrote to communicate with one other person. Now we reach hundreds or thousands of people with a single post. We search for laptop deals with an eye to wireless connectivity in order to stay connected and communicate with a global audience at a moment’s notice. Rather than eroding our writing skills, this has sharpened them. Blogging, in particular, is a powerful way for people to improve their writing.
There are many different types of communications in the world of social media. Textspeak and overuse of abbreviations or slang is not appropriate for every setting. Social media users have to learn the proper time and place for different types of writing. While Twitter is forgiving of textspeak, Facebook’s longer text limits encourage proper grammar. While shorthand does slip into Facebook, emails, blogs, and even some written papers, most writers are still aware of how to write properly, and do so often.
Social media quickly breaks down personal barriers. People will post things to their Facebook accounts that they probably never would have called dozens of people over the phone to share. These little tidbits open up a whole new world of conversational opportunities when we see our friends in person.
Before social media, jumping into a conversation about breastfeeding with a coworker may have felt awkward. After seeing her pictures and posts online, however, it’s much easier to broach the subject. While there are certainly pros and cons to oversharing, this proves that social media isn’t as isolating as some believe.
Another side effect of Twitter’s text limit is the ability to get to the point faster. Gone is small talk. Kiss goodbye to lengthy intros. The sweeping prose of earlier generations is giving way to a new way of writing that’s more concise, jumping right to the point. Blogging has contributed to this as well, since most successful bloggers know they only have a few seconds to draw a reader in before he clicks away. Short punchy sentences and the active voice are taking over as the most popular way to communicate in writing.
Public speakers are noticing a real change in the way they have to communicate with their audiences. Where speakers once saw the eyes of their listeners, they’re now seeing the backs of laptops and tops of heads. This is because many attendees are typing notes or tweeting updates throughout the presentation. Speaking to this type of audience is an unsettling experience for some, but it’s just one more change that we’ll have to adapt to.
With the prevalence of smartphones and popularity of texting, chances are you’ve been with someone who was there, but not quite there. It’s not uncommon to see people glued to their technology even in social settings. If you can’t recall a time this has happened, you might be the offender yourself. Though we’re no less social, we are more distracted. Putting down our social media connections to focus on the ones right in front of us is something that takes a real effort.
Social media is definitely changing the way we communicate, but in many ways it’s for the better as we expand our social circles and explore new horizons through our online connections.
Written by: Miles Young | Edited and Compiled by: Karan Chopra
Photo Credit: Flickr/Melina Sampaio Manfrinatti