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Social Media Harms Good Writing?

Has social media harmed significantly the standards of good writing?

21st century technologies have given us the power to easily spread our ideas and thoughts through the Internet and both written and video blogging. While printing presses and ham radio gave generations before us the opportunity to spread their ideas, nothing has changed about how and why humans communicate, only the way we do it. The rise of Phatic Communication firstly through SMS and later through Social Networking sites is changing our language and how we communicate with each other both virtual and real worlds.

“Phatic communication is verbal or non-verbal communication that has a social function, such as to start a conversation, greet someone, or say goodbye, rather than an informative function. Learners sometimes find it difficult to recognise phatic communication. For example, a learner may interpret the American English phatic structure ‘What’s up?’ as a question that needs an answer.” (http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/knowledge-wiki/phatic-communication)

In his article, ‘New Media, Networking and Phatic Culture’, Vincent Miller suggests that we are moving to a ‘networked sociality’ (Andreas Wittel, 2001) and a ‘flattening of communication’… (http://con.asgepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/4/387)The tools we use for this type of communication maybe computers, phones and mobile phones and devices but … “it is human communication and what we do with our technology that counts.”(Page 2 Thurlow C et al 2004)

In his book, Understanding Media, Marshall McLuhan suggests that “the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium. The content of writing is speech, just as the written word is the content of print”. (Page 8, 1964) This would suggest that people in online social network sites are writing as they would speak the actual words.

Phatic Communication and Social Networking sites have allowed the user to create an identity for themselves and have their own opinions. This also includes the level of language and slang used. Talking amongst friends, one will use different ‘style’ of language rather than if they were speaking to a boss or person of authority. Facebook profile status updates and twitter have brought this into a microblogging status where the author updates their profile or ‘What you’re doing now’ in 160 characters for example “Vanessa Monaghan is very wrecked and doesnt feel like working or even moving for that matter so I’m updating my ipod” (http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=665701933&ref=mf)

Facebook (www.facebook.com) gives the impression (through the design of the site and the fact that originally one must be a college student or graduate to open an account) that they are more ‘grown up’ than sites like Bebo (www.bebo.com). Facebook embraces Phatic communcation and enables those not capable of seeing ones friends or collegues on a day to day basis but still keeping in touch through status updates, both on computer and by the applications available for internet enabled mobile phones. Twitter, (http://www.twitter.com) a form of micro blogging allows followers to keep up with what friends or celebrites ‘are doing’. See Appendix 1

One Profile on Bebo for DJ Frank Jez, Ireland’s leading HipHop and R’n'B DJ, has comments which include “Gudstuff .. Wen da tiketz on sale ?” and “hey homie. whats up? i hope u r good!! sum luv 4 my lite old brother “ http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=707913196 In this case neither grammar or spelling are correct but are we blaming social networking sites for corrupting the English language or has this just led on from ‘Txt Spk’.

Mobile phones starting becoming commonplace in Ireland in the mid to late 1990′s (personal records). Using texting, one could send messages using up to a maximum of 160 characters. Character space led to the abbreviation or phonetic of words for example “tonight” became “2nite” and “you” became “u”. While not every user embraced the changing of words some lost vowels altogether. A popular misconception is that while all mobile phones have a predictive text function, many users believe that truncating words or using emoticons, makes texting quicker.

Fears that children and teens using abbreviations and emotional icons or ‘emoticons’ will jeopardize their literacy skills have been expressed. In an article for The Daily Nation, Sam Wamgubu (http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/-/440808/516150/-/42a57a/-/index.html) mentions that one of the biggest fears is that young people will not be able to code switch. “Teachers have to spend a lot of time “unteaching” Internet and mobile phone-speak. Upon graduation, students who are completely sold out to texting may not be adequately prepared to express themselves when they do common things such as write a letter of application for a job or communicate with customer service about product or service issue “

A number of social forums have asked the question if we are killing the English language through texting and Social networking. On http://forums.keeptouch.net/showthread.php?t=23911 limmk references The Strait Times (http://straitstimes.asia1.com.sg/lif…54713,00.html? ) when starting a debate about a lecture who says ‘I have hauled students up for their lack of etiquette’

Most of the discussion regarding online language takes place on website forums and communities and blogs. http://www.primalsneeze.com/2007/05/03/the-txt-speak-debate/

The English language is changing and has changed since the time of Shakespeare. As mentioned in Sam Wamgubus article “SMS abbreviations are now in latest edition of the venerable Oxford English Dictionary”. What we need to see is if the entire English language is changing or are we creating an entire new language?

Most of the discussion regarding online language takes place on website forums and communities and blogs. Primal Sneeze (http://www.primalsneeze.com/2007/05/03/the-txt-speak-debate/) raises the issue of Native English students and if “Will they survive when competing against their peers with excellent standards of written English in growing economies such as India, China and Eastern Europe? (http://www.primalsneeze.com/2007/05/03/the-txt-speak-debate/)

Social media and the technologies surrounding it have become commonplace in the 21st century. We get our information and news from a number of different sources, crossing the old/new media line, Radio, TV, Newspapers, online TV channels and websites as well as blogs and social networking sites. What separates these blogs into professional and hobby standards?

In a professional publication, readers have come to expect a professional standard of writing without any ‘txt tlk’ or netspeak, leading to many questions wondering whether blogging and self publishing deserve the same respect as print journalism. This distinction is now becoming blurry. In Ireland magazines State (http://www.state.ie), Connected (http://www.connected.ie) and even The Event Guide, (http://www.eventguide.ie) have all left their print versions behind.

This is not an Irish only phenomenon, in the U.S.A. The Seattle based Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed its last paper version on March 17 2009. The 146 year old paper now wants to become www.seattlepi.com. The CEO, Frank Bennack Jr., has said “Our goal now is to turn seattlepi.com into the leading news and information portal in the region.” … and a “community platform”. http://www.seattlepi.com/business/403793_piclosure17.html

The world is currently experiencing an economic downturn which obviously, may affect sales of newspapers. Another point to consider though is immediacy and how we want updates on particular news stories now rather than tomorrow morning. This would lead newspapers and the printed press to be out of date as soon as they are printed and become irrelevant. The constantly updated internet and social media forums

In Broadcast Journalism, Andrew Boyd writes “Come the revolution, every radio and TV station becomes a strategic target…even in peacetime, whoever controls the media has the whip hand in the war for people’s hearts and minds” (Page 157) In other words the Printed Press does directly affect us. The standard of writing within different print publications also maybe affecting not only the English language but our contemporary culture.

The Guardian newspaper has a reputation for a good standard of writing as does its British Press award winning website (http://www.guardian.co.uk.) The Sun (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/ )is quite comic book in style and the day’s (24/3/09) main headlines feature a boy who drew a penis on the roof of his Dad’s house and a dress worn by Geri Halliwell. The Guardian look at the evidence alleged Israeli crimes and the surprise rise in inflation. Forums on these sites attract different kinds of people from different social backgrounds with different attitudes.

In Communication, Technology and Society, Jan Fernback is cited as saying ‘Cyberspace is essentially a re-conceived public sphere for social, political, economic and cultural action’ and that ‘…users can act as media audiences … yet users are also authors, public rhetoricians, statesmen, pundits’ (1997 p37)

Appendix 1

While researching the assignment I tried to join Twitter on several occasions. Such is the popularity of the site that the following message appears on the screen “Twitter is over capacity. Too many tweets! Please wait a moment and try again”

References:

Boyd, A, 1988, Broadcast Journalism, Reprint 1990, Oxford, Heenemann Professional Publishing Ltd.
Green, L, 2002, Communication, Technology and Society, SAGE Publications Ltd, London

McLuhan, M, 1964, Understanding Media, 1996 Reprint, UK, Routledge Classics
Thurlow, C, Lengel, L, Tomic A, 2004 Computer Mediated Communication, Social Interaction and the Internet. London,Sage Publications Limited

http://www.bebo.com

http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=707913196

http://con.asgepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/4/387

http://www.connected.ie

http://www.eventguide.ie

http://www.facebook.com

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=665701933&ref=mf

http://forums.keeptouch.net/showthread.php?t=23911

http://www.guardian.co.uk

http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/-/440808/516150/-/42a57a/-/index.html

http://nessymon.wordpress.com/

http://nessymon.wordpress.com/creative-writing/remediation/

http://www.seattlepi.com/business/403793_piclosure17.html

http://www.state.ie

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/knowledge-wiki/phatic-communication

http://www.twitter.com

Personal Record: First mobile phone 1995 – first text 1998

Bibliography:

Boyd, A, 1988, Broadcast Journalism, Reprint 1990, Oxford, Heenemann Professional Publishing Ltd.
Dahlgren, P, Sparks, C, (eds), Journalism and Popular Culture, 1992, SAGE Publications Ltd, London
Green, L, 2002, Communication, Technology and Society, SAGE Publications Ltd, London
McLuhan, M, 1964, Understanding Media, 1996 Reprint, UK, Routledge Classics
Thurlow, C, Lengel, L, Tomic A, 2004 Computer Mediated Communication, Social Interaction and the Internet. London,Sage Publications Limited

http://www.bebo.com

http://www.bebo.com/Profile.jsp?MemberId=707913196

http://con.asgepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/14/4/387

http://www.connected.ie

http://www.eventguide.ie

http://www.facebook.com

http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=665701933&ref=mf

http://forums.keeptouch.net/showthread.php?t=23911

http://www.guardian.co.uk

http://www.nation.co.ke/oped/Opinion/-/440808/516150/-/42a57a/-/index.html

http://nessymon.wordpress.com/

http://nessymon.wordpress.com/creative-writing/remediation/

http://www.seattlepi.com/business/403793_piclosure17.html

http://www.state.ie

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/knowledge-wiki/phatic-communication

http://www.twitter.com

http://slapstickpolitics.blogspot.com/2008/11/facebook-killing-privacy-and-english_28.html

http://spy.typepad.com/reporting/2008/05/killingjourna.html

http://www.primalsneeze.com/2007/05/03/the-txt-speak-debate/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17939_109-10159372-2.html

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