I meant, of course, that LOL literally turned 25. I’m of course much, much older.
LOL is the oldster. And for language geeks like us, this is excellent news: The language of social media helps us play with language and watch others play with it while our language grows and twists and turns. Some of us lament the grammar of “young people today” but hopefully we all can celebrate a bit the fact that language is more alive than ever.
The Language of Social Media: an Art and Science
A few posts ago, we introduced the idea from a TED talk that texting is actually, scientifically speaking, not text, but speech. And there was the larger issue in that post (and TED talk) the question about whether our language skills were worse off today than they were before we all were pinned to our smartphones.
But according to the Oxford Dictionaries, “the truth is that social media is great for word nerds. It provides a rich playground for experimenting with, developing, and subverting language.” We agree. The language that social media is giving us is richer and more playful. It is more expressive. Think about how much a simple hashtag says. Think about the last time a bit of language was the feature of a skit on Jimmy Fallon.
Social Media is Good for Languages
To go deeper, whatever we may think of how social media is affecting our own language, there are people who are thrilled about it. Because one little known effect of social media is that it is helping revive and keep alive rare languages. According to NPR, there are 7,000 languages spoken around the world. About half are at risk of extinction. One reason for this is that the Internet rewards dominant languages.
Interestingly, social media is good for rare languages. It is a great medium for allowing these communities to find each other and communicate. Facebook is available in 70 official languages. They are adding 13 more, including Azerbaijani, Javanese, Macedonian, Galician and Sinhala.
How Do You Feel About Social Media?
Do you use it each day? Or do you try to avoid it as much as possible? Somewhere in between? Though we certainly can use time away from screens, it is true that social media has added to our culture in at least a few ways.