What are the effects on sentences and vocabulary in general use as a result of the rise of social networking?

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The purpose of this piece of writing is to show how social networking on the internet has had such an effect on the English language that new lexicons have appeared that change the established order of sentences and vocabulary. The rationale of this piece is the fact that online communities start these new genres of language through their daily communication. Although internet social networking is relatively new, its massive growth has brought on the rise of language development and expansion. The history of this growth and some of the reasons for this language development will be given highlighting why sentences and vocabulary varieties come to be used within these social networks. Examples will be given throughout this piece highlighting English language’s unique components that can still produce meaning from dismembered sentences and vocabulary. Overall thought will also focus as to whether this use of internet language has actually permeated into general conversation in daily life.

In an age where internet users have a myriad of avenues to communicate between each other all around the world in real time, it can be recognized that initial programs such as AOL and its instant messenger in 1997 and Friendster in 2002 allowed users to keep in contact with other members that helped create paths for chat and messaging. The combination of these two ideas for bringing people together, that nowadays many websites such as Facebook and Twitter follow, allows for friends to form closer internet relationships allowing for more chat and language with reduced formal rapport. Twitter, as a present day online social networking example which sends and receives messages from an assortment of devices simultaneously at the moment the message is sent, has also introduced the concept of micro messaging where the user just comments on what is happening in the now. Here, introduces users to the concept of summarizing messages and statements giving instant gratification through their minimalization of sentences and vocabulary that creates competition for interest and a doorway to be creative.

Adapting sentences and vocabulary to use in online conversations many purists would argue diminishes the English language but it could be just a way of being creative and effectively using new technologies. It would seem unimaginable 10 years ago to envisage a new global language that has developed through such famous websites as Facebook and Twitter. Speed has to be the number one factor that affects the users’ use of long drawn out sentences and messages. Social Networking is about instant messages that satisfy all parties. Of course, it has to be recognized that in the first instance users are limited in how much they can say which contributes to downsizing of their message. Twitter actually has a maximum of 140 characters per instant message. The user has no choice but to compress their new information. On the whole, within instant messages and online chat users are telling little snippets of their lives and in most cases do not need to produce long sentences for online conversing.

Conversations in social networking groups change as the rapport between people in these groups becomes enhanced and as a result, users become savvy with each other. Just as an engineer would not understand a doctor, and visa versa, if they started to use their own technical language, online users start their own language to create secret groups, be inventive, try to be cool or hide the meaning of their message from others. For example, an overbearing parent may be wary about their child and tries to check up what they are talking about on the internet. If that parent was to discover their child’s chat conversation they would find it hard to unravel some of the meaning if it is littered with bizarre wording, incomplete sentences and acronyms such as  ‘PAW’ for ‘parents are watching’.

Moreover, online secrecy has no bounds, instead of saying the actual word like ‘drugs’, the online user can use other words as in this case ‘OG’ being orange juice in the phrase ‘U hv OG’ literally translated as ‘Do you have drugs?’. The effect is a new global language that on the surface is hard to fathom but actually has meaning and ingenuity. The effect is that teenagers can easily make up new words when they need or want without a lengthy explicit explanation on the internet or not.

Furthermore, the fast pace of information sent and received around the world, and the instant gratification for users telling their friends of their interesting ongoing action highlights the change and creation of new language, be it for the best or not, within online communication. For example, if a new networking user was to receive a message telling them that the sender was ‘Getting MWI’ they would be flummoxed to get to the meaning. The receiver would already notice that the sender has broken many rules of English. There is no subject so we do not who is doing the action. We have to presume it is the sender. The grammar is wrong. The sender uses the acronym MWI which is certainly not easily recognized and where is the punctuation? All these points may be well and good for the grammarians to argue about but a look at the point the sender is trying to make has to be recognized. The sentence, if we can call it that, actually deciphers as ‘I am getting mad with it’ which although is now presented in a more rule based proper manner still can be misunderstood. “Getting mad with it’ actually means getting drunk.  In all regards, the message starts to belong to a form of an idiom that highlights its ambiguous meaning. The point here is the meaning of the sender’s message which is the only factor they want to portray. In the sender mind, they have actually produced a coherent, away from the norm, message albeit a form of stripped down English.

Messages and instant messaging are not completely dissected English. In many cases these senders’ sentences and vocabulary allows them to get their point across in a message in as short as way as possible. The message albeit short is just an introduction to more information. The sender and receiver could well be meeting later and the sender will continue the story in more detail. For example, a users daily status message may read ‘.. understands that hard work pays off in future but Laziness pays off now !’.  The readers of this, in reality, have not got a clue what this incomplete sentence means and has to imagine what might be happening to their friend but usually it is not the start of a long dialogue on the internet, it shows that talk is rooted in face to face conversation and these online sentences are just sound bites. It shows that instant messaging in some respects does not affect general language use.

In the movement away from existing parameters of explaining clearly in complete sentences, an observer can recognize there is a transformation of English within internet social networking while one matter of debate is the effect it is having on general language use. It has to be stated that there is clear distinction between the virtual internet world and the real world outside. For example, any online user may seem a wise and cool person on the internet but in the real world, this language can make them look silly and continually misunderstood. This illustrates online chatting or messaging can seem like two worlds.  The detachability of internet conversing has certainly changed the condition of impersonal contact. While people may spend many hours on the internet, they still have to be in contact with other people face to face in a myriad of social settings and figure out what the other person, close friend or not, is saying.  This is where it could be argued that the distinction between the internet and school or someone’s job can be seen.  So, it could be said informal English that is said online only really works within those constraints or if outside of that within close-knit groups.

Moreover, like-minded groups are not just on the internet. For example, a skateboarder may say I did a ‘bitchslap’ in his group where all understand but would be lost on his mother. ‘Bitchslap’ actually means ‘touching the front wheel of the skateboard with your hand’, but within other circles, it can mean ‘to open handedly hit someone’. So, it is recognized that the internet is not the only place where people change and develop language.  Even so, online users still can take words from the internet such as ‘WTF’ or ‘what the f##k’ and use them in the outside world. The phrase would be understandable in a bar or at school but to just say ‘WTF’ may well seem strange and if ‘WFT’ is used it can cover the rudeness of the full word such as ‘WTF, mum!’.  By the same token certain acronyms have entered general use. LOL, OMG and WTF have spread from written to the spoken word.  This being said you would more than likely hear a teenager commenting with acronyms on someone’s clothes or haircut.

(1525 Words)


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