How Some Aspects of Social Media Parallel the Ideologies of Linguistic Anthropology

Penguins photo credit: Bermico

People who don’t understand social media often think it’s just a bunch of “stupid status updates.” Well, sure… I guess you could look at it that way but it’s also a huge change in the way we read, understand and communicate with each other. It’s a change in the culture of content consumption.

Two parts of Cory Doctorow’s “How to Say Stupid Things About Social Media” reminded me of two things. First, the underpinnings of social media as linguistic anthropology. In other words, the internet, social networking and social media have changed the way some of us talk to each other and  switch between our online language and offline language. In the same way some people are bi-lingual, the switching of languages reflects and emphasizes identity. By this, I don’t necessarily mean acronyms like LOL or WTF; I mean words that are specific to social networks like “tweet”, “retweet”, and “OH:” (overheard) on Twitter.

Secondly, the “banality” of our online conversations as they relate to small talk in the office or an elevator. On the surface, awkward small talk. As a greater whole in the American culture? A way of building networks/alliances through recognizing personal details and emphasizing casual solidarity. Small talk is a huge part of how people understand and perceive each other.

People who are perplexed by how social networks often completely overlook these points. The points of social networking and small talk are so seemingly simple that they’re complex.

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