No one would have predicted that an elite social network for Harvard students would grow into the most popular social network site with over 1.19 billion active users.
The popularity of Facebook has had an impact around the world, and its effects can be seen in the very structure of English language. Words like “status,” “like,” and “timeline” have acquired new meanings through the social media dimension, and these new meanings are gaining official standing in dictionaries.
The Oxford Dictionaries editors, for instance, acknowledging and in part honoring the frequency and importance of the additional meanings of the word “like” that have arisen thanks to Facebook, decided to include a new definition for the word in their latest dictionary update:
LIKE: indicate one’s liking or approval of (a web page or posting on a social media website) by means of a particular icon or link:
“More than 15,000 Facebook users had liked his page by Monday morning.”
“It is not yet clear how much the Internet and social media can help push people to move beyond just ‘following’ and ‘liking’ things.”
Facebook and Twitter have created languages of their own, it seems, and their effect on people’s vocabulary is just one example of how social media play such a key role in the way language is evolving. Words like “tweet”, “Facebook official” and even “stalking”, “microblogging” and “status” are words used daily.
Oxford Dictionaries also provides a social media-related definition of the word “status,” which until ten years ago was merely used to describe social standing and other types of classifications:
STATUS: a posting on a social networking website that indicates a user’s current situation, state of mind, or opinion about something:
“When I updated my status on Facebook yesterday I said I was ‘seeking a sense of purpose.'”
The power of social media to affect and promote language evolution is a process in the making, and the ongoing advances in technology promise more changes to come. Sometimes those changes result in old words becoming new again – in the 13th century, people used the term “unfriend” although it later fell out of popularity. Today, with people’s wild enthusiasm for Facebook and its networking, an old word has gotten new life in the 21st century, thanks to social media.
About the Author:
Chassie Lee is the Content Expert for eReflect – creator of Ultimate Vocabulary which is currently being used by tens of thousands of happy customers in over 110 countries.