Technological advancements and digitalization have widespread in the 21st century. More than 40% of the whole world is connected to the Internet. From gaining knowledge to making new friends, it is used for several purposes, with reading text in various languages, like Dutch, Portuguese, Hindi, etc. This powerful tool has changed the way Gen-Z perceives English as a language. Anglophones might call this change “language abuse,” but when a language becomes a global language, nobody owns it anymore and is free to use it flexibly, according to their comfort.

There are numerous social networking sites or apps that are being used extensively. Every site has a specific purpose, and the language used is adapted to fit that purpose. To exemplify, “Twitter”, originally used as an online diary, is now actively used for news alerts. The limited character count allows the reader to get short, brief information about any topic. This reduces the time spent writing “tweets”. Tweets also include hashtags followed by nouns or phrases without spaces between words; other handles are mentioned as well that are appropriate to the subject the tweet covers. “Hashtagging” is also used in many mediums to gain reach and more followers so that the message/post/tweet gets shared with a broader population. This form of neologism can be “abusing the language” under a ‘prescriptive view’ as it doesn’t obey the norms of grammar.

Acronyms are widely used in all social media platforms, and people have begun this informal feature of communication in offices and schools. These are words made up of initials of phrases. Commonly used acronyms are TTYL (talk to you later), UG2BK (you’ve got to be kidding), YOLO (you only live once), etc. LOL is a very peculiar example; LOL can mean ‘lots of love as well as ‘laugh out loud’. This may be tricky when used as the sender and receiver might have a different understanding of this acronym.

Social media and technology have also coined new words which are used in everyday language. ‘Google’ is, universally, the most used search engine, that it has replaced the phrase “search for it” to “Google it”. This noun is also used as a verb. Another example could be “Colgate”. This toothpaste brand is so famous that it has replaced the word ‘toothpaste’ in day to day language of people. Numbers have also been coined; for instance, “404” means an ‘error’. Likewise, in Thailand, “555” is used to express amusement.

The meaning of the word “friend” and “unfriend” has broadened due to Facebook. Friending can also mean accepting follow requests on their Facebook accounts to make that person a friend. You may not need to meet with the person face-to-face but can call them a friend. Similarly, the word “viral” was initially only associated with diseases caused by a virus, but its meaning is broadened. Viral can also mean something trendy due to social media, like fashion trends.

Memes play an essential role in expressing humour on social media. They tend to “roast” an event or a person and are considered “savage”. DW guys, because roast in this context doesn’t mean to cook, it means ‘to subject with a good-natured ridicule’, and savage means ‘offensive and criticizing’. Different types of memes are used in other geographical locations, according to the culture and recent events. For example, in the USA, memes are made for the backlash of actor-singer Olivia Rodrigo’s merch. In India, memes are made on a so-called ‘Psycho girl” for physically abusing a taxi driver who saved her.

To conclude, social media has majorly affected the way the English language is used. Numerous emoticons add meaning to the communication too. It is always better to be with the change and apart. Thank you, bubyee

Author : Anushree Biyani, A-Level