Are social media changing the way we communicate?

Posted by Becca Mataloni

After a recent texting conversation with my 12-year-old cousin, I realized that I apparently did not know how to text. His messages were full of grammar, usage, and punctuation errors, while mine had to be correct before I could press send. It made me wonder if this was the new trend. Is everybody throwing the old rules out the window and putting a new social media “language” in its place?

Since children get cell phones as young as 8-years-old and have their own Facebook page, I am worried they will forget about the basic rules of the English language.

However, The Washington Post had an article last year that said kids are still smart when forming abbreviations or slang terms in social media:

  • Probably is prolly, never proly
  • Should’ve is shoulda, never shuda
  • Going to is gonna, never gona.

They claim that if students are good spellers academically, they are good spellers in social media. On the other hand, many of my friends never use capitalization, apostrophes, commas or periods and use the wrong form of words, such as there, their, and they’re.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought we learned those rules back in first grade. Why abandon them?

Some think that it is not necessary to speak formally in every form of communication. Grammar Girl said that New Zealand allows students to abbreviate on tests, assignments and even national exams. Does this mean in a few years we will be able to close a cover letter with TTYL, Becca Mataloni? So help me if that happens.

With social media on the rise, are the basic rules of spelling and grammar forgotten? Or should online chat and texting be a language of its own where the formal rules do not apply?

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One response to “Are social media changing the way we communicate?

  1. It all gets back to audience. If I’m texting my kids, do I use “btw” and “kthx”? Yes.

    If you use Facebook, blogging and Twitter primarily for social interaction with your buddies, then your audience will be more forgiving of your writing lapses.

    Nowadays, however, anybody can find your blog, tweets and Facebook posts. Your audience, then, is potentially everybody — including future employers.

    I take pains to make sure all my online communication reflects good writing. Heck, I even edit my tweets so they follow AP style. Readers shouldn’t have to pause to decipher meaning, even on Twitter. (Are you listening, Sen. Grassley?)

    For another perspective on the “are digital media making us stupid” debate, see this thought-provoking piece by Wired’s Clive Thompson on “The New Literacy.”

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