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Could Social Media Lead to the Death of Prose?

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Since the birth of Facebook in 2004 and Twitter in 2006, the use of social media as a form of communication has risen dramatically. Since 2007, social networking use has doubled and now accounts for 1 of every 6 minutes spent online(i) and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Facebook officially hit the half-billion users mark in 2011 and now has over 1 billion users worldwide, a 200% growth in the past year (ii). Twitter is also demonstrating significant growth with over 500 million registered users, and this is increasing at a staggering rate of up to 900,000 new registered users per day(iii). While many of us will be pleased to hear that we can now connect with more users online and easily maintain contact with friends and family, the popularity of social media may not be music to the ears of bloggers.

This rise of social media, and its restrictive nature, has led to an increased use of short-form communication. There is no longer a need to write letters or long-worded emails to keep in touch, as we can say everything we need in just 140 characters. There is no longer a need for direct communication to catch up on the latest gossip, we can just trawl through our friends' statuses and we're up to speed. This has led many to believe that social media is affecting both our ability to create and our interest in absorbing high quality, long-form writing.

In order to communicate through restrictive sites such as Twitter, and previously text messaging, a new short-form language has developed. Grammatically correct messages like 'hello, how are you, what have you been up to lately?' are now being replaced with shorter, 'easier' messages such as 'hi, how r u, wat hv u bin up2 l8ly?' There are many that believe this to be an insult to the English language, going so far as to dub text-speak as 'penmanship for the illiterate' (iv). This is particularly worrying for the development of children and teenagers, as studies show that teenagers between 13 and 17 send and receive 3,339 text messages per month (iv).

The teenagers of today are the bloggers of tomorrow and as such, it is imperative that the education system does not ignore this phenomenon. Children must be taught that, although 'm8' and 'gr8' are acceptable forms of communication on Twitter and texting, they are not grammatically correct and should not be used outside of social media. Otherwise, we won't be reading classics as we know them, like Great Expectations, it will be Gr8 Xpek8ns!

In addition to the detrimental effects short-form communication could have on the future of writing, the rise of social media and technology has led to an increased appetite for absorbing information and material through these platforms. The mobile and tablet evolution is encouraging more and more users to turn away from traditional print and online media (v). As such, 11.5 percent of tablet owners are now reading their daily newspapers on their tablet and from December 2011 to January 2012, e-reader ownership nearly doubled, from 10 percent to 19 percent (vi).

Although, absorbing news in print is currently the preferred method, it is clearly apparent that momentum is shifting towards online and mobile media. Therefore, it is imperative that news generators adapt to keep up with the advances in modern technology and to ensure they do not fall by the wayside, only to be replaced.

Furthermore, the modern era of mobile and tablet apps means that content created online is also not safe from extinction. As more and more information is consumed using mobiles and tablets on the go, users are looking for easy to use and convenient experiences. Recent research shows that 60% of Twitter users access the site on their mobiles (vii), in order to compete, bloggers must have the tools and applications to ensure that their content is easily accessible and therefore remains a joy to read for today's mobile society.

i Source: Mashable, 15th June 2011: http://mashable.com/2011/06/15/social-networking-accounts-for-1-of-every-6-minutes-spent-online-stats/
ii Source: Wall Street Journal, 4th October 2012: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443635404578036164027386112.html
iii Source: Media Bistro, 21st February 2012: http://www.mediabistro.com/alltwitter/500-million-registered-users_b18842
iv Source: MSN, 21st February 2012: http://news.uk.msn.com/the-big-question/the-big-question-is-text-speak-destroying-the-english-language
iv Source: MSN, 21st February 2012: http://news.uk.msn.com/the-big-question/the-big-question-is-text-speak-destroying-the-english-language
v Source: MediaPost, 17th October 2012: http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/185401/mobile-rising-newspapers-magazine-readership-ad.html
vi Source: Mashable, 19th September 2012: http://mashable.com/2012/09/19/e-reader-infographic/
vii Source: Marketing Land, 8th June 2012: http://marketingland.com/twitter-60-percent-of-users-access-via-mobile-13626