Speaking in Twenglish: Social Media Language

This post was written by Eric Abrams. Eric is one of Likeable’s newest buzz builders. Here is what he thinks of the evolution of language. The Evolution of Language through Social Media

There’s this great lecture by David Byrne, former frontman of the Talking Heads, that has been circling the internet for a while.  In this lecture, Byrne makes the argument that the creation of new forms, styles, and genres of music was less a product of natural artistic evolution but rather an adaptation to the locations in which music was, at the time, being heard and appreciated.  According to his theory, punk rock was not a result of rebellion – of angry teenagers who wanted to make noise and start trouble -- but rather a product of the small, dingy clubs and bars in which that this music was being played (e.g.: the legendary CBGB’s of New York).  The acoustics of basements and bars lend themselves best to certain types of music, and, as a result, music adapted to fit its intended venue.  I find that the same argument can be made for language: that it is not something that organically breathes, changes, and evolves over time on its own, but rather that it reacts to the forums in which it is read, seen, or heard, and it adapts accordingly.  Social media will prove itself to be one of the most powerful purveyors of ideas, thoughts, and discourse created on the internet, and, as a result of its power, its effects on the English language will be palpable.  What I’m getting at here is that social media will become not only be an advancement in how we connect, communicate, and market but will, in time, change how we speak, think, and write.  It is making language more personal, more conversational, and more identifiable: all of this is happening right in front of our eyes.

The English language has been changing for centuries: advancing through public theaters, the printing press, and the internet, language has been evolving throughout the ages as a result of new technologies and shifts in popular methods of communication.  Social media poses itself as especially important because it is the first medium ever to be forcibly constrictive on a writer (I’ll also acknowledge the text message as restrictive communication, but its impact will be nowhere near that of social media due to having a much smaller scope).  As a result of this restriction, members of Facebook and Twitter have adapted their style of writing and communication according to their own preferences.  Because of this, language has become more conversational, more concise, and more accessible than ever, and that’s a beautiful thing.

And here’s the point that I’m trying to make: there are those people -- you know who you are -- who feel that twitter is chipping away at the supposed sanctity of English, and that, with every substitution of “ur” for “your” and “2” for “two,” English is being hurt.  But it’s not: it’s really, really not.  Language is an arena meant for innovation and not stagnation.  Social media is causing people to be more efficient and judicious with their sentences, words, and even letters. This forces each member of Twitter and Facebook to make a very important distinction in their online voice, and the result of this decision is incredibly influential in the building of one’s online brand and personality and on the English language as a whole.  As language continues to change through social media, we will see different people take different approaches to writing, speaking, and communicating.  This will cause language to become more personal and more subjective: we can see this with every tweet, with every status.

How will you adapt? 

Are you a traditionalist or a modernist?  Which contractions/substitutions do you like to use and which do you not?  However you choose to write, just make sure it’s consistent with the online brand that you’re trying to present through your social media pages and profiles.  I prefer to write in full, properly punctuated sentences because I think it’s fitting of the image that I’m trying to project.  It’s ok 2 write like this if u want 2: just make sure that you are constant in your writing and that, if a colleague, boss, or family member were to read it, you wouldn’t respond with panic and/or embarrassment.  And if you prefer to write in a more academic fashion, don’t treat others as though their tweets and updates are an affront to the English language; be respectful of your peers and recognize that you have the privilege of watching a language evolve right in front of your eyes.


Be consistent with your writing, be true to your image, build your brand through your words, and don’t make any glaring spelling or grammatical errors that would otherwise undermine whatever point you’re trying to make or idea you’re trying to present.  Also, pay respects to social media and its power on the way we live, act, speak, and write.  Oh -- N duNT TiPe liKe dIs. No1 wntS 2 reEd diS, n~ no1 wilL WAnT *2* foLow YUu.


Have any thoughts on how language is changing through social media?  Tweet me @Eric_Abrams!