2017-2018 #3: Digital Englishes

The grand debate of the Digital Age has become whether or not social media has wreaked havoc on/improved our command of the English language.  There is no doubt that technology, along with the advent of social media, has made a substantial impact on the English language. Twenty years ago, the word “selfie” surely would not have taken up residency in the Oxford Dictionary, let alone be declared as the dictionary’s Word of the Year.  Similarly, familiar words have taken on new meanings in the Technologic Age as well: “like”, “profile”, “troll”, etc. English is no stagnant; with the advancement of technology, it is constantly changing.

Yet does the purist argument of social media destroying English hold water? One commenter on an online forum firmly agrees that it does, stating that in recent years, “Slangs have creeped in and the purity of the language is lost. People do not want to complete sentences with required punctuations, as it wastes their time. . . And it’s not even amusing.” (Shilpa Taneja).  Another site that totes itself as a professional editing and proofreading service suggests that Spanglish, Chinglish, Hinglish are hindrances on the language because “English is a separate, self-sufficient language, which does not have to blend with other languages in order to be suitable for someone.” (“Effect of Social Media on Modern English Language”).

Perhaps the language hasn’t been left entirely untouched, but as the dominant international language of the 21st century, English has been transformed by the way we use it digitally. Digital English has become a way to preserve regional dialects, keeping them in rotation and in written form where they once may have dwindled in usage. Non-standard dialects, such as Hinglish, Singlish, southern white English, black American English, are being written more than they used to. As a result, other online users are experiencing these Englishes for the first time and may not have had the exposure to them if not for social media.

Finally, using Twitter as an example, social media has become an asset in teaching us how to become better communicators. The social media platform’s character limit pushes its users to stay within its confines, forcing us to craft short and deliberate arguments to get our point across. This quickness of words has pushed us towards getting to the core of what we want to convey, rather than spend our time filling our content with “fluff” and lengthy speeches. As a result, this quick crafting of arguments serves somewhat like a TV ad: short yet effective. In our daily interactions, this allows us to keep conversations going, causing others to reply in short yet effective responses that allow numerous people to join the conversation without the intimidation of a lengthy reply.