Opinion Web Exclusive

#Hashtag nation on the rise as social media jargon infects modern English

With social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter broadening their dominions with an influx of new users every year, Facebook’s 1.15 billion and Twitter’s 500 million as of 2013, our favored means of communication has transformed seemingly overnight.

On Sept. 24th, late night king Jimmy Fallon and the ever-popular, ever-evolving Justin Timberlake appeared in a video together, aptly titled #Hashtag, in which they exploit, with excessive use of the social-media slang word, the crumbling foundation of the English language … all thanks to a measly keyboard #symbol.

Some go so far as to call this shift the “Technology Takeover,” suggesting our growing participation in this virtual realm has diminished the most intimate aspects of humanity.

In 2010, The Jed Foundation and The Associated Press took a poll examining college students’ emotional health in accordance with their “close relationship” with technology. Ninety percent said they had visited a social networking site within the week prior to the survey. It’s no wonder, considering 50 percent of all Americans participate in social networking or have some type of presence on the Web, according to a 2011 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Media mavens describe ordinary social networkers joining the ranks of those with hybrid IM-English vocabularies as acronyms like “YOLO” (You Only Live Once) and “FOMO” (Fear Of Missing Out) are popularized among culturally diverse groups across the world. The dependency upon abbreviations has expanded throughout time to even include the use of single letters as viable replacements for actual words. This way, even if acronyms are absent from one’s speech, the evidence is in the writing.

The use of text-inspired diminutives like “2nite” or “2moro” is sprouting to new heights, much to the dismay of older generations less acquainted with modern technology.

In a 2003 article published by USA Today, “shorthand,” author David Samson brands informal communication as unacceptable, saying it lends itself to “linguistic shortcuts, shoddy grammar and inappropriate or absent punctuation.” Samson shared his discontent with the trend among teens.

“They seem to avoid every rule I was ever taught about how to get a response from anybody, especially an adult,” Samson said.

All grievances aside, this adopted language is here to stay, apparent in Fallon’s latest continuation of the #hashtag; the video garnered more than 13 million views last month.

Personally, whenever I do happen upon a foreign acronym or tag, I take pride in my ignorance of its meaning because it suggests I may not be as detrimentally “plugged in” as I thought. But if I were to be completely honest, some bit of pleasure is derived from pressing that keyboard button with the notion of a greater connection of minds.

It almost provokes a desire to join Twitter. Almost.


 Opinion columnist Alex Meyer is a creative writing freshman and may be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Comment