Sunday, July 18, 2010

Social Media and Language

A few weeks ago I discovered, as I googled applicants for a job to see what the internet knew about them, that one of the candidates and I had a mutual friend. Since that friend was the teenage son of one of my oldest and closest buddies, someone who probably thought of me more as an uncle than anything else, I was intrigued and called for a chat. I wasn't seeking for any dirt to be dished, just interested in how they knew each other. In the course of the conversation I learned this line, 'He's not a friend; he's just a Facebook friend.' Ah. So in the teenage mind there is a difference.

His sister has been known to say 'Lol' when something is amusing. LOL, a text-speak abbreviation for Laughing Out Loud, has been with us for some years now but it was strange to hear it pass into the language as something a person might actually say. Either that or his sister (who may read this) is simply weird. It's a possibility.

These two examples should put us all on our toes when someone lifts a quote or idea from a social networking site. A quote, lifted out of context, as ever, is in danger of being twisted.

So when David Cameron, a man who said specifically during the General Election campaign that he didn't do social media, he didn't get it and that he thought too many tweets made a twat, condemned the thousands of people who had joined the RIP Raoul Moat site he fell foul of the changing language rule.

The Facebook site which suggested Moat was a legend has been taken down by its author but, as several callers to yesterday's Any Answers pointed out, it was only the title of a discussion group. If you wanted to contribute to the discussion you had to 'join.' It didn't mean you agreed with the title; it meant you wanted to say something. Apparently, by a matter of 10 to 1 or more, the comments were not offering approval to Moat.

It's the same with the word 'like.' Someone makes a smart comment and on Facebook you tick a box to say you like it. If someone says 'Sometimes there is no alternative but to drink a whole bottle of wine and eat two boxes of chocolates while watching Die Hard' I may 'like' the sentiment whilst not advocating the habit. There is no 'like but dim' button.

If you hear someone from the out-of-touch party quoting Twitter or Facebook, before you get in touch with your inner Daily Mail, have a ponder. Could its meaning have been nuanced on the journey?

Right. Top Gear, wine and chocolates. Good night.

1 comment:

John Ward said...

Like