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Last Update: Saturday, Sep 16, 2023 16:17 [IST]

Media’s impact on Language

Mrinal Chatterjee

Window Seat 

Media as a platform have always impacted language in several ways: the way it is spoken and written, by introducing new words and expressions to express new thoughts, concepts and physical objects. 

Consider how Books (1455), Telegraph (1792), Telephone (1890) Radio (1891) and Television (1927) impacted language- both written and spoken.

In just two and a half decades, social media has not only revolutionized communication and the media ecosphere – it has had a profound impact on business (and thus economy), culture (especially popular culture) and also language.

Social Media’s impact on language is caused by its constructs, characteristics and sheer number of people using it.

The number of worldwide users of social media is expected to reach some 3.43 billion by 2023, around a third of Earth's entire population.  There were 448.0 million social media users in India in January 2021. The number of social media users in India increased by 78 million (+21%) between 2020 and 2021. The number of social media users in India was equivalent to 32.3% of the total population in January 2021.

What could be Social Media’s impact on language?

·         Grammar goes. Social media is conversational by nature. Therefore more often than not, it does not follow the rigour of the grammar. As more and more people are using social media for various purposes- including official and business communication, the rigour of grammar is getting withered.

·         Mix of language. In a multilingual country like India- people often speak in two or more languages. That is happening on social media. The ease of typing in several languages thanks to the improved features is helping this trend to grow.

·         Use of Pictorials (Emoji). In social media gradually more emojis- pictorial representation of articles, moods, etc. are being used. Emoji represent the first language born of the digital world, designed to add emotional nuance to otherwise flat text. Emoji have been popular since they first appeared on Japanese mobile phones in the late ’90s, and in the past few years they have become a hallmark of the way people communicate.

Emoji’s have developed into a pseudo-language of its own. “An emoji is a graphic symbol, ideogram, that represents not only facial expressions, but also concepts and ideas, such as celebration, weather, vehicles and buildings, food and drink, animals and plants, or emotions, feelings, and activities”. Emojis are used on a daily basis on almost all social media sites. In the last two years, there have been over 10,000,000,000 emojis used on twitter alone. Emoji’s may just be emoticons in a new form but the recent usage of emoji’s over social media has developed them into a new pseudo-language of their own. 

·         Short and Dense Content. In social media, the general tendency is to keep the message, especially the text short. There are sites like twitter which allows upto 280 characters, while sites like facebook allows 63,206 characters. But as social media sites are mostly accessed through mobile phones- where the screen is small the general tendency is to ‘see’ and not ‘read’.  Therefore gradually the writing in social media is becoming short, brief but dense- loaded with meaning.

·         Appropriating existing vocabulary: One of the most notable ways that social media has influenced the language, is through the appropriation of existing vocabulary. Words that had existing meanings, have now been given other meanings in an online context, which then spills over into verbal communication.

Years ago, if somebody said the word “wall” to you, you might think of the ones in your house, or the ones outside in the street; however, in a social media context the word “wall” refers to the homepage of your social media profile, where you can share aspects of your life/work in a public forum.

·         Introducing new vocabulary:  The internet has become one of the influences of the English language in recent times, and along with appropriating existing vocabulary, it has given life to a plethora of new words and phrases. A few years ago, nobody had heard of the terms “unfriend”, “selfie” “fleek” or “emoji” however these words have trickled down from social media, and into our day to day conversations. Some of these terms have even made it into the Oxford Dictionary; ones that have, include: YOLO (You Only Live Once) along with compound words such as “Craptacular” and “Amazeballs”, not to mention the recent social media trend of identifying high-profile couples by combining their first names to form a blend word e.g. Brangelina.

Alongside these words are a vast array of social media specific acronyms, ranging from the almost universally known “LOL” celebrating its 28th birthday this year (Laughing Out Loud), “DM”, (Direct Message) and “FOMO” (Fear of Missing Out) and “TBT” (Throwback Thursday). The speed at which new vocabulary is introduced online, used, quickly over-used and then discarded is phenomenal and has never been so rapid.

Half a century after Bruce Lee

Description: D:\Documents\SIKKIM EXPRESS\jackie-lee-1-17cdd6751d824199a8af493930d99abf.jpg

Bruce Lee, the legendary martial artist died half a century ago- in July 1973 under mysterious conditions at the age of 31. The advantage of dying early for an icon is people wonder- what could have been if he were alive! This creates an everlasting halo around the person.

Born in San Francisco in 1940, raised in Hong Kong, obsessed with martial arts, Lee Became an Asian icon in Hollywood. His persona triggered numerous martial artists and martial films across the world including India.

Tailpiece 1: What education does

What we see: The sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Fact: Sun neither rises nor sets. It is earth which rotates around the sun.

Morale: Education kills our common sense. Don’t get educated.

Tail-piece: Now..

Remember the song from the film ‘Mujhse Saadi Karoge’ (2004) - ‘Jine ke Hai Chhar Din’ (Music director: Annu Mallick).

I enjoyed it in my childhood.

Now I am living … ‘Baki Hai Bekar Din’.

(Courtesy: Social Media)


Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi