Social Media; Global Family, and the Proliferation and Misuse of Short Forms

by Nnaemeka Oruh

At no other time is the expression ‘the world is a global village’ truer than with the explosion in social media sites. With Facebook, we were more like a global village. But the advent of that rambunctious son of the social media–twitter definitely made us more of a global family than a global village. What with ‘trends’ and the option of retweets and open discussions of a particular topic by all and sundry, information became quickly passed around. The one negative I pick from it all is the fact that tragedies become so well publicized that some people begin to think that they happen more often than they used to, thus signifying the end of the world. Whether the world will end one day is still a subject of huge conjecture and is not in any way my focus here.

What I am concerned with is the fact that the reduction of the world to a global family has quite naturally led to a proliferation in the use of short forms. I mean short grammatical forms and of course acronyms. Thus, one finds in most written works the expressions; ‘ur’,’n’,lol, etcetera.

But of course, the use of the short forms would be no problem if it is restricted to informal works and the short forms are correctly used. Unfortunately, this cannot be said to be true as in various supposed formal essays, we find these contractions littering them.

For instance, Juan Mata’s weekly blog ‘One Hour Behind’ features several instances of the use of the acronym ‘lol’. This raises the question, is ‘One Hour Behind’ not supposed to be a formal blog? If yes, then why the use of the informal acronym “Lol”? Perhaps no blames should be laid on Mata for using the short forms. The world has become a global family and he was only talking to his “family members”–informally.

Here is another example of allowing the social media intrude into a formal work( this was taken from an essay whose author will remain anonymous. This essay is supposed to be formal):

“Growin up was not an easy thing for us. Sometimes your expected to eat once a day.”

Notice that the author of the above essay had somehow deleted the ‘g’ that completes ‘growing’. This is an example of the complacency that results from people becoming too addicted to short forms. In that tiny moment of loss of concentration, the author could not grasp or remember again if he/she was tweeting, updating a Facebook status, talking to a friend on BlackBerry Messenger, or writing a formal piece.

There is another blatant error in that extract too. It is the author’s misuse of the word ‘your’. Now, notice that the right usage would have been ‘you are’. However, in keeping with a new tradition of “spelling as you speak”, the writer had misused the word ‘your’. This is one of the most recurrent case of misuse of English forms that emanated from the proliferation of the use of short forms. ‘Your’ or its contracted form ‘ur’ has become one of the most abused English words in our world today. Scour all social media, you are bound to have numerous examples of this misuse daily. It has become so chronic that one sees no end to this misuse. It is actually a global problem!

Here is an example from English footballer Joshua McEachran taken from his twitter handle:

“@JMcEachran20: Have a great time away see you when your back love you loads!!”

Despite the fact that Mr. McEachran is a native speaker of the English language, he is as guilty as the others.

There is another one that is also grossly misused. It is the pronoun ‘his’. Here is an example:

1. Question: Where is Obi?

Answer: His not here.

2. “@mis_buumi: I can swear his angry, he just gave that his “okay:)” face….”

(Example two is culled from d twitter handle of a Nigerian studying in the United kingdom)

Here, the correct expression ‘He is’ or its contracted form ‘He’s’ has been replaced with the completely different pronoun, ‘His’.This seems to me to be a direct shortfall of the “spell as you speak” syndrome that gave birth to so many short forms in our social media.

Indeed there are numerous examples. What I have just tried to do here is to juxtapose the proliferation of short form usages with the conversion of the world into a global family. Apparently, social media with its emphasis on ‘understanding what is meant’ and not ‘correct usage’ is taking a mighty toll on formal English usage. The bad part is that this practice is not being checked and is gradually taking over our world. Any attempt by an enlightened person to point out these mistakes on social media earns him/her nothing but ridicule and the appellation ‘nerd’.

I do not want to be called a nerd. My duty is to think out loud through this essay. Hopefully, it will jolt a few people.

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