The internet, more specifically the internet terminology we use, is changing the way we understand language and linguistics. The debate around whether texting culture and our use of ‘internet dialect’ are making us lazier and slower has been going on for years, but what does the way we communicate in the digital realm really say about us? A lot.
Abbreviations, emojis, gifs, and even memes are shaping the way we communicate on the internet. They’ve become such a vital part of our online experience that they are even dictating how we converse among one another. However, these new forms of internet dialect are also creating a divide between us, millennials and gen Zs, and older generations, as they use language in a more formal, traditional sense. This explains the debate surrounding the dialect that the ‘internet generation’ uses.
For instance, take the world ‘lol’—what began as an abbreviation for ‘laugh out loud’, no longer even serves as a means to express amusement, but sarcasm instead, while many older people interpret it as ‘lots of love’. This misuse results in confusion, which then ends in miscommunication, lol.
It is understandable how internet linguistics and dialect may be altering the traditional notions of language. Many teachers and scholars across all levels of education have expressed their concern over the fact that their students’ literacy levels are dropping, and that many students are more accustomed to typing on computers, phones or tablets, rather than writing by hand. Somehow, it has become completely normal to reply to a message with a GIF or a meme, and emojis are literally navigating our love lives.
Canadian linguist Gretchen McCulloch recently published a book titled Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, in which she analyses the depths of internet language and lingo. In it, McCulloch takes a less traditional approach to language and linguistics, saying, “I’m a linguist, and I live on the internet. When I see the boundless creativity of internet language flowing past me online, I can’t help but want to understand how it works.” The internet is not going anywhere, so, to quote a common internet phrase, allow it. Afterall, who is to say that the new ways in which we use language are wrong?
While millennials and gen Zs have grown up in a world where internet language only started developing, as we remember an era pre-emoji, pre-hashtag and pre-texting, it is the youngest generation that will be navigating through the notion of internet language. A recent survey conducted by McCulloch found that some children who don’t even know how to read or write yet, are using emojis as a whole means of communication—meaning, they text each other only using emojis.
Children may not be able to voice themselves through written words yet; however, they are able to process the visual meanings behind emojis. Even when little kids are taught to read or write, these are always accompanied by illustrations, so the fact that they are using emojis even before they are able to read is no surprise. Many teachers are even resorting to teaching their students of all ages through emojis and memes. Considering we are shifting toward a digital future, is that so bad? Yes, learning how to use a phone to send a text or how to use emojis, prior to even knowing the fundamentals of reading and writing, is surely nontraditional, but this new way of communicating is becoming such an engraved aspect in our culture that ignoring it would be unreasonable.
Emojis, internet slang and online communication have become so popular that they’re even being used as a tool to sell drugs on social media. All you have to do to process your order is send an emoji to your dealer, simple as that. For the older generations, this raises concerns. You must have seen the ‘is your child texting about(…)?’ meme explaining different text abbreviations, or various parenting articles about the emojis that your child may be using, how they are actually secret messages and why you should be worried. Apparently, many parents are under the impression that if your child is using and receiving any type of eye emoji, it is a request for nudes—and as scary as it sounds, they’re not completely wrong.
We are used to texting and communicating online using abbreviations, misusing the correct punctuation or even writing everything in caps—yes, that may not be grammatically correct, but this is what allows the internet generation to evocatively express their emotions and feelings. Of course, this will be picked up by the younger generations, and will keep changing. On the bright side, it seems that today’s generation is still committed to spelling things the right way (and so quick to out someone for their misuse of ‘you’re’ and ‘your’). Long gone are the days of using the 2000s ‘txt’ lingo. Using ‘u’ instead of you, ‘cuz’ instead of because, or ‘gr8’ instead of great is not an option anymore.
Language is bound to constantly change, and expecting it to stay the same forever is unrealistic. So, instead of focusing on how the internet is ruining language, perhaps we should focus on how it is revolutionising it—after all, we are shifting toward a complete digital take-over, so why not embrace it and learn a couple of cool memes and abbreviations while we’re at it?
How often did the eggplant emoji make you absolutely cringe when swiping through Tinder? A recent study conducted by researchers at the Kinsey Institute found that a frequent use of emojis is directly linked to having sex more frequently. Yes, you read that correctly—your sex life now depends on emojis.
And it is not just your sex life; in fact, emojis have been proven to be effective signals for relationship-oriented digital communication, leading to a more successful dating life. The researchers have conducted two separate surveys. In the first, they found that 28 percent of Americans use emojis regularly, 3 percent use one in every text, 2.5 percent use more than one in every text, and all participants found that using emojis provided them with a better outlet for self expression than text-based messages.
The second survey found that 97 percent of its partakers use emojis when speaking to potential love interests and showed that emoji use is related to maintaining connections with a first date, meaning that people would be more likely to engage in intimate behaviours as time progresses. Both surveys were then connected to information such as how often do these people have sex, go on a second date, and kiss their partner, and it appeared that those who participated in these activities the most also happened to send the most emojis.
This probably shouldn’t come as a surprise—emojis, in a way, are a 21st century art form in itself. There is even an animated film dedicated to them titled, perhaps unsurprisingly, The Emoji Movie, and a few years ago a university in Ireland shared potential plans of creating an emoji as a foreign language course. Somehow, emoticons have gained immense pop-cultural value, and it was only a matter of time until they caught up with the way we communicate among each other.
There are limitations to the study, however, as there is no evidence of what type of emojis are used most frequently and which emojis link to what outcome. It is also important to note that the survey focused on the sending out of emojis rather than receiving, therefore there is no proof of how the latter reacts. While we question the likelihood of each emoji’s ability to turn us on, it is important to take the entire research with a grain of salt. But what does this say about our use and understanding of emojis?
It is no secret that when conversing via text certain elements of human communication get lost. Verbal communication and its meaning are greatly affected by the person’s voice, tone, and intonation, which simply can not be present in a text. Emojis can add that tone of voice into the conversation, allowing for a much more expressive and friendly flow, and essentially ease out the conversation.
Dating in today’s world is, without a doubt, stressful. Dating apps and websites have made dating a lot more accessible, as we now have the ability to plan our next hook-up with the tips of our fingers. However, the link between romance and technology has also created a handful of its own issues, such as the inability to find meaningful love or presenting us with too much choice, which results in confusion as well as anxieties over not appearing too desperate. Emojis are able to add a certain tone of casualty and laid-backness to the conversation.
The previous idea could then be traced back to the survey and success of emojis in conversing among potential romantic partners. Emojis can sometimes make the conversation more relaxed and less serious, which could lead to a follow-up date. Of course, the fact that we need emojis to communicate better is slightly concerning, but, then again, we are shifting towards a digital future, and it is only natural that each and every element of our lives will become impacted by this, for better or for worse.
Considering the countless debates around how technology and mass digitalisation have changed dating as we know it, making it even more difficult to connect romantically and intimately, the argument that emojis are now improving our sex lives certainly comes as a paradox. But hey, it seems to work. So go on and up your emoji game.