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Portola High School

Opinion: Is technology dumbing down language?

From the moment I discovered the internet and its boundless avenues of exploration, I quickly learned that the difference between phrases like “thx” and “thank you” can go a long way when it comes to meaningful communication. In the rapid onslaught of technology, language has taken a few steps backwards.

Technology has significantly lowered the barrier of entry to conversation; posting globally accessible content is now as simple as a few taps on a smartphone. However, it is easy to exploit this convenience by posting incomplete and incoherent thoughts haphazardly — a process that occurs so frequently that it devalues communication. This trend has conditioned younger generations to eschew more formal language and thought, often leading to a lack of empathetic connections.

Moreover, the average human attention span has dropped approximately four seconds since the dawn of the mobile revolution, according to a 2015 Microsoft study. Hand-in-hand with its dwindling attention span, society has shortened its speech. Over the past few decades, the internet has invented a new form of expression dubbed “textese,” referring to common text slang and abbreviations used in online communications.

This is indicative of the slow erosion of language — textese discourages conventional aspects of writing such as punctuation and spelling in favor of pushing out thoughts as quickly and concisely as possible. It’s difficult to establish empathy with something so brief; it requires detail and emotional investment that are not prioritized in condensed media. 

A popular new genre of applications, Chat Fiction, translates various media formats to textese. One such app, Hooked, is currently #30 in the “Books” category of the Apple App Store and presents stories in the form of text-message chains. This new medium replaces complex plots, deep character development and a proper time investment with short, bite-sized narratives meant to entertain but not offer a fully developed literary work. 

That’s not to say textese has no merits — when used appropriately, it makes communication efficient. However, the current trend of lazy and mindless conversations sets a concerning precedent for our language.

A combination of instantaneous communication systems and a dumbed-down universal dialect has not only degraded the value of conversation, but also language as a whole. 

This is an especially dangerous problem to tackle considering it is an abstract issue lacking a concrete solution. Controlling textese and the forms of media people consume is a near impossible task, but raising awareness through studies and remaining well-informed is not. The only way to limit the growth of this apathetic mindset is by exposing the rest of society to it — notably parents and older generations who are unfamiliar with this medium. Recognizing the issue is crucial in order to uphold the communication standards that brought society so far to begin with.