Social Media’s effects on language and communication.
The title of the communication platform, social media, has a sense of irony to it. The word social connotes a sense of communication between two or more individuals, it also suggests one of the basic necessities of human life will be achieved; to communicate and interact with other beings. Furthermore, the word social almost connotes the individuals are communicating positively between each other, as to be ‘social’ is positive. However, within contemporary society, as a result of social media platforms, it may be argued there has been a decrease in active, healthy communication between individuals where an accurate account of each individual’s life has been portrayed. In January 2018, there were 44 million social media users within the UK, representing 66% of the UK population. In addition, 38 million of users reached their social media platforms through their mobile, which accounts for 57% of the UK population. (Statista, 2019: Online). This therefore, is likely to have an effect upon language use and communication, with particular influence upon the younger generation.
According to SocialMediaToday, ‘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.’ (Chopra, 2013: Online) This infers that communication has become more efficient as a result of social media. When using previous forms of communication, such as writing a letter, the individual writing the letter was most likely addressing one or a few people. Whereas, within social media, each text produced publicly will have multiple viewers. However, it may be argued that this has desensitised communication as it has become less private.
Social media platforms attempt to defy the bounds of geography in terms of communication, for example, Facebook’s most recent mission statement declares their aim to ‘Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.’ (Zuckerberg, 2017: Cited in Constine, 2017: Online). It may be argued that social media has allowed users the means to communicate globally, whereas previously people may not have had the means to travel in order to interact with others.
However, it ought to be noted that not all communications between social media users are positive. ‘As technology offers new and various ways for social interaction, a new form of peer-directed aggression has emerged, called c-aggression. C-aggression happens when mobile phones and the Internet are used to make threats, insult victims, circulate photos, spread rumors, etc. [Slonje and Smith, 2008]. What mainly distinguishes c-aggression from traditional face-to-face forms of aggression is the anonymity of the mediums used.’ (Pornari & Wood, 2009: Page 83). In addition, ‘…because young people associate the use of technology with online games, chatting with friends and exchanging photos, cyber bullying is often closely connected with other means of entertainment. (Greenfield, 2014: Page 153) This infers that social media may have a negative impact upon communication, having a particular influence on young people.
In addition, social media has also had an effect on language use. For example, ‘The social web has changed the written word in a couple of crucial ways: Writing is more summarized: However, this has allowed for shorter sentences or paragraphs and made way for neglecting correct grammar use. Abbreviations are more prevalent…’ (Subramanian, 2017: Page 72). This suggests that as a result of social media, the need for syntactical structures has declined, social media users can send multiple messages with little punctuation. Over time this may have an adverse effect upon writing and thus, written communication skills.
Not only does social media have an immediate effect upon language use and thus communication, it also advocates ideologies and political opinions. In previous years, internet users had to actively search for forums promoting and opposing political views, such as MoveOn.org (on the political left) and the Christian Coalition (on the political right). Whereas, within contemporary society, the algorithms used within social media platforms create pathways to similar material to what is being viewed. In addition, ‘…Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace have become common platforms for political leaders to gain attention for themselves and the issues and causes they promote.’ (Warren & Fassett, 2015: Page 10) This infers that social media reinforces political views and ideologies, therefore it may be argued that social media has a subsequent effect upon communication between different subgroups within society.
In addition, it may be noted that the algorithms used by social media platforms have their flaws. For example, the algorithms are ‘…notoriously crude and simple-minded, stumbling when confronted with sarcasm and other common modes of expression. They have trouble with word order, double negatives, ambitious qualifiers, and inverted sentence structures.’ (Greenfield, 2017: Pages 227-228) Just as the algorithm used may misinterpret a post on social media, individuals using social media platforms may misinterpret a post. For example, an individual may interpret a statement in a different manner than was intended by the author. Thus, this may cause difficulty when communicating virtually on social media and potentially have an adverse effect on communications and relationships in reality. This depicts a major disadvantage to social media where users may become socially isolated as a result of posts online. A recent study suggested that ‘…people who visit social networks over 58 times a week are three times more likely to feel lonely that those who use the sites under nine times…social media is contributing to the rise in FOMO (fear of missing out).’ (Hosie, 2017: Online)
Overall, it may be argued social media has enhanced communication to a certain extent. It allows global communication irrespective of class, gender, age and ethnicity. However, there are many drawbacks to the communication platform, such as the deterioration of language and syntactical structures. Similarly, social media creates the platform for cyber bullying which is prevalent within the younger generation. In addition, social media creates a false sense of socialising which is a natural human necessity.
Chopra, K., 2013, ‘The Effects of Social media on How We Speak and Write’, SocialMediaToday, Viewed 05 April 2019, https://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/effects-social-media-how-we-speak-and-write.
Constine, J., 2017, ‘Facebook changes mission statement to ‘bring the world closer together’, Techcrunch, Viewed 04 April 2019, https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/22/bring-the-world-closer-together/
Greenfield, A., (2017), Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life, Verso, London
Greenfield, S., (2014), Mind Change, Ebury Publishing, Croydon.
Hosie, R., 2017, ‘People who use social media a lot are isolated, study says’, The Independent, Viewed 05 April 2019, https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/social-media-high-usage-more-isolated-lonely-people-study-university-pittsburgh-a7614226.html.
Pornari, C. D., & Wood, J., 2009, ‘Peer and cyber aggression in secondary school students: the role of moral disengagement, hostile attribution bias, and outcome expectancies’, Aggressive Behavior, Vol. 36, Issue. 2, Pages 81–94.
Statista, 2019, ‘Total number and the share of population of active social media and mobile social media users in the United Kingdom (UK) in January 2018’, Social Media & User-Generated Content, Viewed 04 April 2019, https://www.statista.com/statistics/507405/uk-active-social-media-and-mobile-social-media-users/.
Subramanian, K. R., 2017,’ Influence of Social Media in Interpersonal Communication’, INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS AND RESEARCH, Issue. 109, Vol. 38, Number 02.
Warren, J., & Fassett, D., (2015), Communication, Edition 2, SAGE Publications, London.