social media

Linguistics student: “discourse is directer and harsher on social media”

This post is part of a series that looks at social media from different perspectives. My first interview was with a student in linguistics and American studies.

Language
My interviewee explains to me that the language on each social media platform is different. He names a couple of platforms such as Twitter and 4Chan that have distinct ways of interaction and incorporate memes into their communication. However, groups on these platforms also have different ways that they utilize language, ‘Black Twitter’ is an example of this. Online users learn ways of setting up jokes that is only recognizable to them and their online peers, which is facilitated through the language they use. Furthermore, younger generations will develop parts of their identity through online interactions. He names interests and political affiliations as examples.

Some people think that language deteriorates because of social media. But my interviewee disagrees. He argues that language becomes more standardized and globalized as a result of its role on social media. Consequently, people will be able to communicate with one another with much more ease. However, I then wondered if it would be harder to discuss more complex topics online using this standardized form of language. He disagreed. He lists simple topics that will be easier to discuss with this type of language and further explains to me that abstract topics such as politics and philosophy will still be discussed, but just using different language.

Discourse: 4Chan vs Twitter
He believes that discourse could depend on the topic that is discussed on social media and explains to me that there isn’t necessarily one type of discourse that is inherent to social media. However, he does see a distinction between the discourse in older forms of media and social media. The anonymity influences the discourse on social media platforms, it is much directer and harsher now. Yet, the degree of anonymity varies between platforms, which causes some discourse to be even harsher in some online settings. He uses 4Chan and Twitter as examples again, explaining that users on Twitter have more identifiable characteristics than 4Chan users. Therefore, the harshness on 4Chan is expected to be more severe.

The World and Social Media
The bigger platforms that are used in the ‘west’ tend to originate from the United States. However, while these websites are American, countries filter the content on the platforms. He comes up with a personal example. In order to see more American content on YouTube, he had to change his settings. However, it appears that the U.S. is a forerunner when it comes to online trends and challenges. But ‘nonwestern’ countries are also starting to become influential online. Tiktok and anime are two prime examples of this.

Social Media is a double-edged sword

Advantages vs. Disadvantages
He definitely thinks there are advantages to social media. First, he believes that he has learned a lot about different cultures and people through the use of social media. Though, there is still a possibility that you end up in a filter bubble, which is a disadvantage. Furthermore, teenagers might spend less time outside and adults might spend less time talking face-to-face. Yet, he does believe that it could be easier to find like-minded individuals to form a connection with. It all depends on how you look at it.

Social media has the potential to have a positive effect. But in its current form it does not. Especially since bigger corporations own the platforms, which they run for profit. Their objective is not to create a human experience online. Each recommendations seems to serve to pull you to click or buy with the goal to profit. Furthermore, there are inequalities online, since the majority have a strong presence, they influence the recommendations you see online. Minorities are underrepresented in online settings. Social media is socially segregated.

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