Cyber Slang As Threat To Literacy

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It is indeed a good thing that it was created to teach us the modern way of receiving and disseminating information to each other. For some years now, we have been able to reach friends that are far away at our comfort zones. No longer do we rely on face to face communication.
Information are now passed either through phone calls or texting via social media like Twitter, Facebook or Whatsapp. Text messaging has become part of our daily communication routines, from simple hello to lengthy messages and chats. We are now in an era where everyone including the unlettered owns a mobile phone or a computer.
Advancement in technology especially social media has completely changed the way we communicate with each other. The use of computers, 3G and 4G wireless connections and Wi-Fi has connected all of us together, making the world a ‘global village’.
The interconnections being experienced in the world has been praised repeatedly as bringing humans from all walks of life together and keeping us informed about the happening in far away places. However, as much as the new communication technology is being praised for its benefits, some of its negative effects are staring us in the face with the use of cyber slang.
Cyber slang is the use of shortcuts, abbreviations and smileys that represent emotions while communicating on an electronic document such as emails.
This worrying trend has crept into the classrooms and is seriously affecting literacy level among students. In most cases, cyber slang is used more frequently if there is a limit as to how much one can write. A platform like Twitter has about 140 character limit, thus encourages the use of abbreviations and shortcuts.
Abbreviations such as Lol (laugh out loud), 4 (for), bcos (because) UWC (you are welcome), IDK (I don’t know), YOLO (you only live once), TBT (Throw back), are just but few examples of how young people communicate these days. Everyone is becoming more creative in order to maximize the limited space provided.
The use of cyber slang has gotten into classrooms and is baffling to many teachers who are not used to such shortcuts.
In our society today, it is becoming increasingly hard for students to construct grammatically correct sentences even when undertaking examinations. This situation has particularly hindered communication especially where older people are involved as it becomes very hard for them to interprete the messages as required.
Cyber slang is not only negatively affecting students’ class work activities, but has also crept into formal writing such as official letter writing and reports. Most people are no longer able to write good letters, essays or articles due to the negative influence of cyber slang. There is dramatic decline in writing abilities of our students, even graduates due to this development. Students do not capitalize words or use punctuations anymore because of social media’s short syntax writings; they rely mostly on the computer grammar and spelling check features, unknown to them that this reduces their language usage and creative writing skills.
This also brings up the topic of employers searching and looking at social media, with teens being the future of companies. How are employers supposed to hire someone who doesn’t know how to properly communicate?
Social media has made communication more popular but quality has suffered as employers are getting more and more dissatisfied with the communication skills of our fresh graduates; where as, effective communication skills are key to success in today’s world.
Atimes, students become victim of this situation either when they are studying or searching out their course material online or for the simple reason that they want to killl boredom in their study time, hence diverting their attention from their work.
It is indeed a worrying trend that literacy level among students seems to be dropping everyday. One then wonders if the modern communication devices are helping us or making the situation even worse as youths including the underaged are now more exposed to vices like pornography in the course of browsing and tend to practice all what they have seen and read on the internet.
The tools for creativity in writing process may be better than ever, but the negative effects of digital communication are badly hurting students’ writing skills and their attention spans for learning, research capability, use of libraries and research institutes, among others. This is not good enough for our society, especially as it concerns the literacy of our youths.
Although it is not a crime to make use of social media either for research, information or mere relaxation, I think the time spent on social network sites should be reduced and channeled towards more meaningful ventures. More importantly, there should be moderation in students access to social media.
Parents should create an ample time for face to face social interaction with their children during which they discuss about the education and social life of their children in a relaxed mood and atmosphere.
Teachers and lecturers should also discourage the use of abbreviations and shortcuts in schools and should as well state penalty for defaulting students. It is the duty of teachers and lecturers, as moral instructors, to instill discipline on students. In fact, the use of cyber slang during examination should attract serious penalty like outright failure of such students.
Meanwhile, students also should take their studies seriously, devote more time to reading and research and pay less attention to social media. They should remember that they are the future of this country and can not afford to fail or disappoint us as our future representatives.
Nkemjika is a student of Abia State University, Uturu