Is Social Media Changing the English Language?

How many of you used your calculators to write messages such as “hello” and “boobies” growing up? Many of you may be too young to remember those fun times and perhaps even a few of you are perplexed at what a pocket calculator is, but I view this as the crude early stages of emoticons i.e. using symbols instead of letters.

In November 2015 the Oxford English Dictionary announced its’ word of the year, which was not, in fact, a word, but rather an emoticon that most of us are very familiar with: ‘the face with tears of joy’ emoji 😂. This shift from the Oxford Dictionary acknowledges how our language and way of communication has changed over the recent years. Using emojis, neologisms and hashtags is no longer reserved for teenagers and the younger generation.

English, like any other natural language, has two major communicative functions. The first is an ideational function: to get an idea across, as when I say, It’s raining, or I love you. It also has an interactive-interpersonal function: to influence the attitudes and behaviours of others, and, in a myriad of ways, change an aspect of the world’s states of affairs in the process.
— By: Vyvyan Evans, Professor of Linguistics at Bangor University

New Ways Of Communicating

In today’s world there is a plethora of acronyms, abbreviations and neologisms that have sprung up around social media mediated communication. Acronyms such as ‘LOL’ (‘laughing out loud’) and emoticons 😘  add useful elements to nonverbal communication such as playful asterisk describing a physical action or facial expression, or annoyance when overused!

Twitter’s hashtag #, the clickable keyword used to categorize tweets, has spread to other social media platforms such as Instagram and is also commonly used in everyday speech. Last year Twitter launched their branded hashtag emoji (and thereby officially monetizing a hashtag) with Coca Cola. Anyone using the hashtag 'shareacoke' created a custom emoji of two coke bottles clinking.

Facebook has done more than most platforms in creating new meanings for otherwise common words such as profile, like, wall and friend. Other common words such as troll, is no longer just a folklore character, but now also someone making offensive comments online, and a sock puppet, is no longer just a puppet made from a sock, but now also a self-serving fake online persona.

With Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels offering instant interaction with a wide audience, you no longer have to be published through traditional avenues to bring word trends to the attention of the masses. Consequently our communication style has become more informal and more open seeping into other areas of life and culture. Some may say this is a downgrading of the English language, but you can’t argue that one is now able to communicate much more with far few characters, perhaps with even more emotion.

Alas, emoticons are so pervasive they have inspired a wide range of products from stuffed animals to Halloween costumes (my own son has decided he wants to go as the poo emoji 💩 for Halloween 😳 ).  We can assume a Broadway Musical is in the works.