The invention of the internet 20 years ago changed the world as we knew it. Thanks to the World Wide Web we can get things done faster. Shopping, entertainment, communication—all of these can be executed with the click of a button. The days of delayed gratification are dead. If a website takes too long to load or a file takes too long to transfer, we speedily move along to a better, quicker source. No more, tapping our toes with boredom in lines or waiting rooms. We can get work done and virtually fill those “black hole” minutes up with productivity, or plain old amusement in the form of online radio and videos.
Then, along came the internet’s most favored offspring: social media. Social media has rapidly grown from a nifty way to link up with others online to a universal form of communication. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked In—all of these enable us to speak so much louder than we ever have before. These networks have created a global shift in the way the world communicates. As of the first of this year, Statistic Brain showed that over 700 billion minutes were spent per month on Facebook alone and each user spends, on average, about 15.5 hours there each month.
The abundance of social media sites has provided an outlet for nearly everyone to make their voice heard. What’s more, new social networking platforms are being introduced each and every day. Since, these advancements have altered the way people communicate; it is understandable that they have also drastically impacted the English language.
10. The Invention of New Words
According to the Pew Internet Research Project in late 2013, approximately 73% of internet users over the age of 18 use social networking sites. With all this access, people who never before had a platform to express themselves now are able to do so. This has led to a rise in the creation of new words. For example, 10 years ago had someone been overheard saying “I just friended you.” Eyebrows would have been raised. The proper usage would have been to say “I have befriended you.”. However, popular words associated with social media networks have now been incorporated into most dictionaries. Additions like “tweet”, “selfie”, and “twerk” were all inspired by events and people within pop culture.
9. Impact on Other Cultures and Languages
Not only has Western culture and the English Language seen a shift since the rise of social media, many other cultures are changed by this trend as well. In fact, the Statistic Brain study shows that as far as average hours spent on social networks per month, American users ranked the lowest. Eastern countries like Israel, Russia, and Turkey seemed to be logging on far more frequently than their Western counterparts. As a result, over the past several years, words such as LOL and BFF that have been happily welcomed into the English language have also become accepted by the German, Spanish, Russian, French, Arabic, Chinese, and Portuguese as well.
8. Our Memory has Improved
Before the invention of social media outlets, acronyms were typically reserved for medical terms, corporations, and long awkward procedures that no one could remember otherwise. Today, acronyms are used casually more than in any other format. In the past 10 years, the use of these time-saving capital letters have rocketed 550% according to linguists at the University of Colorado. They say that putting common phrases into acronym form leaves the brain to process them quickly and have room left over to think about other things. On the other hand, it has long since been decided that the use of acronyms helps with memory as a study tool. Still, until your brain commits a new acronym to memory you undergo a process of encoding to figure out what each one means.
7. The Use of Periods
For as long as the English language has existed, periods have been a form of punctuation that denotes the close of a sentence, the end of a thought. Social media has evolved the way this little dot is used. This phenomenon can be attributed to several factors such as the character limits on sites like Twitter or due to the fact that punctuation is being replaced by a simple line break. Now, periods are actually being used as a sign of aggression or frustration. For instance, years ago a girl would have shared with her friend through simple text or instant message that “Last night was the worst party I’ve ever attended.”. Instead, these days, she’d post a status update on a popular site broadcasting the simple but powerful “Worst. Party. Ever.”
6. Other Punctuation Marks Replace Profanity
A few decades ago, profanity was often bleeped out of TV and radio broadcasts by an audio beep sometimes accompanied by the blurring of the speaker’s face in a particularly long string of curse words. Today, since punctuation usage has decreased on social networks, these neglected characters are being used to represent profane language. If a person does not use the household acronym of “WTF”, it is not uncommon to find that they replace the bad word with “What the f%#&?”.
5. Communication Has Become More Concise
Journalists, or even everyday people, no longer have the luxury of expressing themselves through an unlimited amount of words. Yes, social networking allows every person their own special platform to announce their every thought, but there is no tolerance for excess. Twitter, for example, has a 140-character limit on each tweet. Therefore, users have to get creative about posting so that their message gets across. Unfortunately, this forced “creativity” often means to some that they should neglect proper grammar and spelling. Facebook is one of few sites that still allow lengthy status updates.
4. The Standouts are Obvious
Since character and word count limitations put a cap on how lengthy a post can be, appropriate English is sometimes abandoned on social networking platforms. Plus, the succinctness required places a challenge on all who post. However, this also allows those who are truly gifted in short form story-telling to rise to the top. While it may be okay to neglect grammar and spelling, it can cause a loss of followers and friends. An individual who is able to convey a meaningful –and grammatically correct—message with very few characters is a true champion of the written word. One could even say that the pressure is stronger to use correct English, since, with the press of a button, millions are antagonizing every single word you type.
3. We Have Become More Expressive
While many say that the advent of social media has caused a decline in face-to-face communication and relationships, it has created a boost in online ones. Users may overshare and post information that they normally would not share. What’s more, they now have the opportunity to be vocal about passions and interests that they maybe didn’t feel comfortable uplifting before. In addition, the invention and growing popularity of emoticons allow viewers to be able to read between the lines more than ever. The placement of these little symbols further emphasizes the content of a message whether it is happy or angry.
2. Our Words Reach a Larger Audience
Before the rise of the internet and social media, the primary methods in which humans shared information were through books, newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio. Recent innovations have allowed virtually every man, woman, and child to have a bigger and louder voice on issues both large and small. By clicking enter or submit, our words have the capacity to reach millions of people within milliseconds. Plus, with blogging, individuals have the chance to become “experts” on all sorts of subjects and build followings of like-minded individuals who share those interests.
1. Keeps Us on Our Toes
Finally, one of the major ways the adoption of social media into our everyday lives has impacted the entire world is by enabling us to steadily grow and evolve ourselves. As stated above, there is now an influx of information available on these sites today and the reach has extended to all internet users. People are able to stay up to date on trends in various industries, pop culture, their high school classmates, and the funniest videos posted on the web. Yet, they can continuously increase their vocabulary and knowledge base by having access to all this information, thereby making every person the potential curator of more fresh and interesting content for the whole world to enjoy.