How has social media affected our communication skills and how we use them?
In recent years, social media has changed many of the vital parts of being human – it has exploded in popularity and this change has been felt throughout nearly every facet of our lives, including our jobs, schooling, and socializing. This caused a shift from largely slow and tedious ways of interacting and communicating with others, other than in-person contact, including emails, phone calls, and SMS text messages , to easier solutions, such as direct messaging and video calling. While the aforementioned tools are still useful and widely used today, the introduction of social media has caused a cosmic shift in our communication skills and how we use them.
While many of us may consider social media a type of entertainment, social media is first and foremost a tool with the intent of keeping people social, a big part of which is communicating with others. Like I mentioned in the previous paragraph, social media has made the act of communicating much easier and less tedious. On top of this, social media has dramatically increased the amount of people any given person can communicate with. We can now talk with individuals from the opposite side of the world and share our opinion with a great deal of people. You want to speak with someone who resides in India but live in Canada? Go for it. Australia? Absolutely. The ease of spreading thoughts and ideas we have is much higher than in years past and is increasing each and every year, as well as how comfortable we feel saying things we believe in. This links in large part to social media’s use of usernames. You and I would have a very difficult time trying to uncover an individual’s real identity on social media, unless of course it is listed in their account description. This anonymity has made people feel virtually untouchable, absolutely destroying the almost sub-conscious filter most individuals have on the way they speak to someone in-person, which leads to people posting all sorts of things, sometimes resulting in online abuse. Because communication on social media is one-hundred percent uncensored, people can easily become quite rude and/or hateful .
One of the less shocking ways social media seems to be affecting our communication skills is with our grammar . If you use social media applications regularly, you’ll likely know of the maximum text limits on many of the platforms. This of course is most relevant on social media apps that specialize in the posting of short thoughts; Twitter is the most known example of this type of social media. While this limit was likely not instituted to get people to use non-formal grammar, it certainly has had that effect. Abbreviations of commonly used words, groups of words, and expressions are very popular due in large part to SMS messaging and direct messaging. In the past, abbreviations were not regularly used other than for names of companies, organizations, etc. Why? Well there were simply not needed. Language before technology was much more formal and proper, or at the very least it sounded like it, due to the lack of expressions such as LOL, DW, or LMAO. Writing a letter was practically an art form in and of itself, and writing a letter with a large amount of grammatical mistakes would have likely made you look uneducated. In the present day however, no-one (who is young and “hip” enough) will bat an eye if you SMS message them SMH or another such abbreviation ; we are actively decreasing the quality of our speech, impoverishing languages, and causing some people to even lose their skill of communicating person to person in real life [1, 2, 3]. While you might not care about language and syntax, and think that this change is harmless because we can simply use social media to communicate, know that there are still other dangers lurking in this abbreviated world we now live in.
In conjunction with the many abbreviations individuals now commonly use, our writing is becoming more and more summarized. “Is this bad?”, you might ask. Well, not always. It can be bad if you look at it in with the perspective of getting across useful and correct information. Because our society today deals a lot less with the whole picture than it does with the headline, summarizing social media posts even more can easily cause us to stray ever further from the truth. If someone only reads the headline of an article, misinterprets it, posts a summarized post on Twitter about it, and that post is then retweeted and replied to with other summarized posts, we will gain no knowledge from reading them; we might actually go figuratively backwards and start to trust misinformation. On the other hand however, it can be argued that our communication is becoming more efficient. With the abbreviations that are now commonplace throughout social media, we can get points across much faster than we used to be able to. Saying goodbye is now just CU, don’t worry, DW, and a number of other words and phrases are a myriad of other abbreviations. Language is now short [1, 2, 3] and, for some, sweet as well.
All in all, I find that the effect of social media on our communication skills and how we use them is negative, as formal spoken language is now a dying mean of communication and we have entered into an era of abbreviations and quick tidbits of information. While many might read this and not care, my opinion differs from theirs. I believe that this impoverishment of language and this destruction of context, emotion, syntax, and grammar is harming us by stopping us from seeing the beauty of the languages we speak everyday . By summarizing everything we say into tiny pieces of information instead of fleshed out talking points, we are regressing as humans. In truth, the thing that separates humans the most from other species of animals is our capability to speak and to do so intelligently, so if we lose that and instead choose to speak with little to no meaning and intelligent structure, we are dehumanizing ourselves.