Oh, I see! moments
Travel Cultures Language

Twode to a Changing Culture

by Meredith Mullins on October 3, 2016

Happy cartoon emoticon thinking, showing the language of social media and cultural change. (Image © Tigatelu/iStock.)

Emoji emotion
© Tigatelu/iStock

The Language of Social Media

Who says a story can’t be told in 140-character tweets? Here’s a tweeted ode (a twode?) to a changing culture . . .


GAS. “Greetings and salutations” (or is it “Got a second?”) It could go either way. #AreYouConfused?

The language of social media is a universe of its own—a rapidly changing organism.

It’s a dialect of abbreviations, acronyms, emojis, emoticons, and haiku-like prose.

cat texting, showing the language of social media and changing cultures. (Image © Leo Kostik/iStock.)

Even a cat can text faster than I can.
© Leo Kostik/iStock

I am not a maestro of text or tweet. #FullDisclosure

The internet is rife with cats and pudgy-fingered babies who can compose more dexterously and faster than I can.

I text with one finger, one hand. #TextWhileNoOneIsWatching

Those smartphone keys are tiny. #OKforDonaldTrumpHands

Interior Of Coffee Shop With Customers Using Digital Devices, showing the language of social media and cultural changes. (Image © Monkey Business Images/iStock.)

The new language of social media
© Monkey Business Images/iStock

Millennials seem to have been born with inherent talent in this arena #SocialMediaEvolution

The new device-oriented generation also has an umbilical cord to the internet. #StepAwayfromthePhoneandSeetheWorld

A smartphone is almost always in hand. Eyes down. Thumbs ablaze. Missing nothing in the text world. Missing many things elsewhere.

A dangerously distracting language. #PleaseBeCareful

No one should text and drive. There are laws. But it’s also dangerous to ride a bike or walk while texting.

Businessman on bicycle texting, showing the language of social media and cultural changes. (Image © Shironosov/iStock.)

Please . . . no texting while riding
© Shironosov/iStock

To address the scourge of mobile phone addicts, a few countries have set up experimental pedestrian texting lanes in city streets.

In theory, the texters then walk at their own risk and regular walkers have obstacle-free paths.

Textwalkers rarely find these lanes, however, because they’re too busy texting. #Oxymoron

Text walking lane showing the language of social media and cultural change. (Image © Stefano Visigor/iStock.)

Texting lanes may become mandatory.
© Stafano Visigor/iStock

The social media language is diverse and dynamic—across generations and across cultures. GAC

It’s challenging to understand the phrases that become just abbreviations in texting.  2M2H  IOMH  IWAWO

Once an abbreviation or acronym becomes too popular (e.g., when parents start using it), it is destined to change. #LOL

Even punctuation is changing. Periods are disappearing because they are no longer needed.

It’s obvious when an instant message has ended. It’s over. The end. Period. (Er . . . I mean . . . no period) Send.

According to a NY Times Article, when a period is used in a text, it means something different. It is a point of emphasis. #PunctuationWeapon.

OK. or Fine. rather than OK or Fine means Enough. Stop. Alrightalready. I have no more to say. It implies annoyance. #Snark

iPhone with text message, showing the language of social media and changing culture. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

© Meredith Mullins

Perhaps to balance the demise of the period, overpunctuation has emerged for dramatic effect, as in “I had fun!!!!!!!!!!”

Visual additions now pepper texts and chats. Emoticons and emojis heighten the emotional impact of a message.

Emoticons are a creative use of type to show a facial expression. For example, a show of happiness:  :) or  :-) or  (ˆ_ˆ)

The expressions can vary across cultures.

Western emoticons are usually read with head tilted to the side. Asian emoticons are read horizontally: Winking face:  ;) or (ˆ_~)

Emoticons for happy face, showing the language of social media and cultural changes. (Image © OIC.)

A Western (l) and Eastern (r) interpretation of a happy face
© OIC Moments

Emojis originated in Japan, where the word translates to pictographs.

They come in a range of emotions and tones and can usually be added through a special character set on the device.

emojis on iPhone, showing the language of social media and changing culture. (Image © Meredith Mullins.)

Favorite emoji emotions
© Meredith Mullins

Since the language of social media has become a common one, I know I have to adjust to the new brevity of thought.

Yes, it’s difficult to bare one’s soul or wax poetic in a 140-character tweet or a text message that’s read in 5 seconds.

The challenge is to grab attention, to inspire, to stimulate, to provoke . . . to connect in this new world of text and tweet.

OIC. Oh, I see. It can be done. But I don’t want to forget how beautiful the other world can be.

Emoticon with smart phone, showing the language of social media and cultural change. (Image © Yayayoyo/iStock.)

You know there’s trouble when even an emoji is a text addict.
© Yayayoyo/iStock

Inspired by Jennifer Egan’s “Black Box,” fiction in tweets, originally published in the New Yorker.

An acronym key:

GAC: Get a clue
2M2H: Too much to handle  
IOMH: In over my head  
IWAWO: I want a way out
LOL: Laughing out loud OR Lots of love

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