Ah, technology! Destroying young people’s ability to use proper English for generations! Kids these days don’t even know the difference between “to” and “too”! It’s only a matter of years before our entire language has degenerated to acronyms and LOLspeak!
…Or maybe that’s just a paranoid overreaction. Sure, we’ve all seen things like this too many times to count…
…but perhaps the reason such faux pas have seemingly become more prevalent with the advent of social media websites isn’t a matter of causation, but rather a case of the internet bringing these issues to light. There is no reason to believe that these people wouldn’t be practically illiterate in a world without the internet; it’s just that the web allows us to see their crimes against grammar in action, whereas in the days before Facebook and Twitter, the only witnesses were the poor, underpaid teachers grading their papers.
It is also important to keep in mind that there is a colossal difference between posts like the one pictured above and intentionally poor English. In fact, the latter may even be having a positive effect on our linguistic capacities. Take a look at this picture:
For those of you who have been living under a rock without WiFi for the past year, that is an example of the internet meme “doge,” a type of image featuring a Shiba Inu surrounded by grammatically incorrect phrases in colorful Comic Sans. How could something so idiotic possibly be good for the human brain, you ask? Well, memes like doge are an example of something linguists call language play, which essentially means taking language and having fun with it through means like puns, crossword puzzles, and the elements of poetry – activities generally agreed upon to be partaken in largely by linguistically gifted individuals and beneficial for learning. This particular brand of language play involves its own set of rules, as linguist Gretchen McCulloch notes; there is a right and wrong way to use the language of doge. It involves a certain grasp on the English language to understand why “such flowers” would be viewed as correct doge-speak and “many flowers” would be viewed as incorrect, don’t you think?
Here are a few more example of how the medium of internet memes provides language players with a new outlet for their creativity:
So if you’re worried about the internet bringing about a linguistic apocalypse, relax! The English language seems to be in good hands.