In my classroom it was a constant battle to keep the students from writing in “text-speak.” When grading papers, there’s nothing more irritating than seeing “u” instead of “you,” “wit” instead of “with,” or some other invented abbreviation. I’m sure these students were just being lazy with their work and were aware that these weren’t actual words, but, over time, will social media’s influence create an overall dumbing-down effect on the English language?
Considering how much time people spend on social media, it’s entirely possible. The online social world is all about quickness and efficiency, so long words and descriptive explanations are not wanted, because they simply take up too much space. After a few decades will “unnecessary” words simply fall out of use? They say we have 225% more words now than Shakespeare had in his time, but could we start seeing a trend where the number of words in our vocabulary begins to decrease? It makes sense that if people spend the majority of their time reading text-speak, they will begin to interact in that style all the time.
On the other hand, some say social media isn’t having a noticeable impact on language, and the text lexicon is actually adding new words to our vocabulary. Also, defenders say not all the interactions are truncated as many texts and Tweets link to full page articles where people must perform “proper reading.”