Social media has had an immeasurable impact on the world. It has increased interconnectivity, sped up the spread of information, and even helped overthrow dictators, but its biggest impact of all might be the changes it has made to language.
Words and phrases have been coined
Dozens of recently-coined terms and phrases originated on social media. ‘Selfie’ was named word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary in 2013. Two years later their “word” of the year was the ‘tears of joy emoji’. There are several more examples of social media slang making it into dictionaries.
Dictionary-endorsed or not, words like ‘hashtag’, ‘photobomb’, ‘lol’ and ‘emoji’ are now in common parlance, all thanks to their coinage and wide usage on social media platforms. These words are concocted in many ways. Lol infamously debuted as an acronym for ‘laughing out loud’, though it is now rarely used to signify literal laughter; instead, it indicates that the speaker found something funny.
Other social media words are new combinations of other words. Photobomb, for instance, is a combination of the popular image format and the popular explosive. It naturally describes the phenomenon of intruding on somebodies photograph, and it came about due to the success of image-sharing platforms such as instagram.
Definitions have been changed
Social media has done more than invent new words and combine existing ones; it has completely transformed the meaning of a large portion of our language.
The word ‘friend’ is now widely used as a verb to mean adding someone on Facebook. The word ‘add’ is now widely used to mean sending an invite to connect Facebook accounts. ‘Likes’ are now a numerical measurement of popularity. A ‘troll’ is someone who bullies other users online and does not necessarily live under a bridge. Unless you say ‘birds’ in the same sentence, most social medias will think Twitter when they hear ‘tweet’.
The language barrier has been bent (but not broken)
So far we have only discussed social media’s effect on the English language, but one of the major linguistic changes it has made involves communication across different languages.
Facebook has a built-in translation function that intends to minimize linguistic barrier between users, in line with its official core aim of bringing people closer together. This is commendable in theory, and the function has been hailed as “surprisingly accurate”. But as translation agency Global Voices point out, social media usage across cultures differs greatly, and no built-in algorithm can translate this.
Another way social media has made progress in breaking down the language barrier is with AI chatbots. Chatbots are becoming increasingly prevalent on social media, with many popular chatbot Twitter accounts showing high levels of intelligence. Some have said chatbots could eventually be used to teach languages. They say the best way learn a language is to try speaking it, and with social media dominating communication, who’s to say speaking to a chatbot is not just as good?
You might also be interested in Motivational Speaker Video on social media marketing.