Speaking Social: How Social Media has Affected the Spoken Word

The millennial generation utilizes texting and social media as a means by which to communicate more frequently than any generation before. It’s unrealistic to imagine that the slang used when communicating this way remains independent of our spoken and professional communications. 2014 added 22 words/phrases to American vocabulary.

For example:
Bae: Before anyone else
Damp: When something is awesome
Squad: Your group of friends
YASSS: When you want to say yes but you mean it more than just a simple yes
Turnt: Excited or hyped for the party tonight


(Image from: https://www.google.com/search?q=turnt&rlz=1C1CHWA_enUS627US627&es_sm=93&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=TSUTVfnnC4ysogSokoKIBw&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=643#tbm=isch&q=bae&imgdii=_&imgrc=zj5ZHZhvYcJvjM%253A%3B0DiuuZUHghtonM%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fs-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com%252F736x%252Fc6%252Fbf%252F62%252Fc6bf62a6872aacd656a10900c323c01c.jpg%3Bhttps%253A%252F%252Fwww.pinterest.com%252Fnessli1232%252Fwhen-bae%252F%3B569%3B496)

However, although agreed upon definitions for these slang terms exist, one would not want to answer “chill with my damp squad” when asked about hobbies during a job interview. But the words that surround us every day inevitably influence the words we use, especially since the majority of the written words we see on a daily basis are on our computer or phone screens. Speaking, then, we tend to combine informal, personal communication, as well as our crafted professional personas taking into account context and with whom we are conversing.

When using texting and social media, one lapses into the use of acronyms for the sake of convenience (and on Twitter they help make the most of the 140 character limit). However, we all have that one friend who has, either jokingly or seriously, pronounced an acronym out loud, “Like el oh el you’re so funny.” This is also something you would not want to say during an interview.

On a positive note, with an increased ability and need to get written content out online (or texted) as quickly as possible, people are more likely to type and speak simultaneously using colloquialisms, respellings, and abbreviations, meanwhile spreading dialects regionally and abroad.

Social media platforms have also created their own vernacular independent of their users. Facebook, for example, has established new meanings and references for words like friend, like, status, wall, profile, and page. When speaking, the context of one’s phrasing allows listeners to determine what meaning of these words to associate with the words used. Furthermore, users have built upon these words new meanings such as unfriend and Facebook official. These are said commonly and often are spoken outside of use of the site. Along those are lines are the instances where certain brands have become so commonplace that they, themselves have been turned into words. For example, Google is a search engine as well as a verb (to Google meaning to search something online).


(Image from: http://emedia.leeward.hawaii.edu/hurley/Ling102web/mod2_identity/2mod2.7contextual.htm)

Social media has also effected the formatting of communications. Responses are becoming shorter in order to express emphasis.


(Image from: http://www.newrepublic.com/article/115726/period-our-simplest-punctuation-mark-has-become-sign-anger)

The picture above shows how the responder is obviously angry even though they are saying they are not. This has also extended into the spoken word. Instead of answering the question with a response such as            “No, I’m not angry. I’m just hungry…” or with some other more detailed explanation, saying “no” shortly has come to imply anger in today’s society (most of the time).

Punctuation has been adapted to imply hidden meanings to digital statements (sort of like body language) which were previously not present. For example, my mom always uses ellipses when she texts me (there’s pizza for dinner…; here’s a picture of a dolphin…; etc.) which makes me feel like there is more she wants to say but isn’t. Sort of like if you ask your girlfriend if eating in instead of out is okay and she answers “yeah I guess…” Eating out is probably not fine. However, this new expressive use of punctuation could enable the aspiring writer to use new ways of conveying tone, voice, and meaning when writing.

Another element to this vastly expanding social media language is the consideration of media. Technology has so far evolved to a point where sending pictures and audio clips are often times just as easy as sending a typed response. For example, if a roommate asks where you are it is as simple to snap a picture of the library as it is to type the word library. What impact does this have on spoken language? Are we going to resort to pointing in response to when we are asked questions? That seems largely ineffective.

Furthermore, with the use of images, language barriers are ignored. A picture of pizza looks the same in any language eliminating the need for translating a tweet or post before it is sent. Is this better or worse than speaking in acronyms?

Language has always been considered a continually evolving phenomenon. In this regard, is the impact of social media on the spoken word natural? Does this alleviate or exasperate our need to worry about this?

Check out John McWhorter’s interesting take on the cultural and linguistic benefits to texting! And actually check it out. http://www.ted.com/talks/john_mcwhorter_txtng_is_killing_language_jk









2 thoughts on “Speaking Social: How Social Media has Affected the Spoken Word

  1. Taylor,

    I didn’t know bae stands for “before anyone else”! I thought it was a simplified version of babe or baby. I think you make a great point that social media has had a huge impact on language, like the use of punctuation. Also, your questions about the increased use of images in language are very interesting. Though there are downsides, there are also benefits to communicating with images – the ability to eliminate the need for translation as you mentioned. Thanks for the Ted Talk too!



  2. Hey Taylor,

    I really liked this article. I always thought that our new way of speaking really makes us all seem lazy in way. Like you said we now send pictures of a object instead of spelling out the word. We also use punctuation instead of formally writing what we mean.

    I really don’t know what this means for the future of our language. Even now I find myself resorting to abbreviations in academic papers and in my speech. I always have to catch myself.

    I like the convenience of text speaking. It really does take less time. But I think it is having a bad effect on our own spoken language.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!
    –Myah Cummings


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