Written September 29th, 2009
This is a mini-rant. Social media has become all-consuming. We live our lives in the public space, randomly sharing our private moments with a world we don’t necessarily know. It started with email, moved to MySpace and found a home in Facebook. Friends you hadn’t seen for years and people you would never ever meet otherwise, become your Facebook friends. You share pictures, moments and your state of mind in status updates, giving a running commentary of your life. You discovered blogs and now you share everything from recipes for your favourite dishes through to the blow by blow account of your breakup with your boyfriend / girlfriend. Perhaps you even found out that you did not have a boyfriend / girlfriend anymore when they changed their Facebook status from ‘In A Relationship’ to ‘Single”.
I may seem negative but I’m not. I love social media. I’ve been on the journey for as long as I can remember. When I get into something, I really get into it. I have three blogs: two started in 2005/2006 and one in 2009. I have two Myspace pages. Fortunately, I only have one Facebook account. I was obsessed with Facebook in the beginning, spending my days finding friends, sharing pictures, catching up. I went to an international high school with over 30 different nationalities in the school so you can imagine how we spread out across the globe. I even found my primary school music teacher whose daughter I had the biggest crush on at 11. She’s now happily married with kids. I am part of countless groups from my old high school to lovers of poetry. I played the games and did the quizzes. That is past tense now.
I spend less and less time on Facebook since discovering Twitter. Like many, I signed up for Twitter and just didn’t take to it. It just seemed very boring to constantly talk about what I am doing at any point in time. I signed up and had my account sitting there for about 6 months before my first tweet.
Now. I love Twitter. I have since discovered how to make twitter work for me and I have even been commissioned to do writing work because of the relationships I have built on Twitter. It is an interactive space that reveals the dishonest very quickly; 140 characters within which to express your thoughts, views, etc forces you to be concise, sharp, coherent. I do not follow celebrities, unless they act like human beings. I do not follow brands, if all they want to do is sell to me. And, I love the fact that, despite the space limitation, people on Twitter, as much as they can, spell correctly.
In general, I love how technology has changed the way we interact but I hate how it has become an excuse for bad grammar and spelling. Over the last few years, particularly with the explosion of sms, a whole digital language has emerged with its own spelling. I can do it just as well as the next person and, there are some occasions when it is appropriate – like sending a quick sms will driving or something – but I really don’t think it should be all the time.
Language is a tool. It is a tool for us to communicate thought and feeling. It has the potential to create amazing beauty and to truly move souls – bt nt whn u wrt lk ths. On Facebook, where one has enough space to communicate, I personally do not see a reason for undecipherable abbreviation. I have heard some attempt to justify this whole dumbing down of language in different ways but it just doesn’t make sense to me. In fact, one of the first groups I ever joined on Facebook was called “I judge you if you use bad spelling and grammar”. It had former US President George Bush as its group avatar.
There are some who argue that English is the coloniser’s language so they don’t need to write it properly. Rubbish. If you use a tool, you perfect use of it. If you are attempting to fix something, you do not use a screwdriver incorrectly because it was invented by someone else. Don’t use it then if you aren’t going to at least attempt to be competent in it. I believe that, whatever language you speak, or use, you must endeavour to understand its ‘rules’ and nuances as much as possible to ensure that you use it to engage effectively with the world around you.
Others argue that the youth are taking language and moulding it to fit the times. More rubbish. We all have our slang. We all have those words that we give new meaning in our vocabulary. It doesn’t mean we can, therefore, proceed to brutalise a language in its entirety. I had a British education. It gave me a love for English language and literature. I write in English. If I want you to understand where I am coming from, I need to constantly improve on my understanding of the English language, so I can use the best words possible for you to understand. If I wrote in Sesotho, or Zulu, or Twi, or Swahili, I would need to have the same level of commitment. I’m just saying.