Word of the Year ‘Selfie’ Shows Technology Changing Language Itselfon November 21, 2013 at 8:24 pm
We see technology driving change every day. And while the tools of communication are clearly shifting – mobile, video conferencing, social media messaging, etc. – we might not be quite so conscious of just how quickly is technology changing language itself.
As rapidly as the Internet has inserted itself into our daily lives, it has also added significantly to our lexicon.
Even though your mother may still think ‘LOL’ means ‘lots of love’, the term – and many others born on the web – are now familiar to all but the most technologically disconnected individuals.
Word of the Year, Born of the Web
‘Selfie’ is the 2013 Oxford Dictionaries word of the year.
While it sounds simple enough, short hand for a self-portrait photo, ‘selfie’ is born of the narcissistic need to show off our own lives on social media. More specifically, it sprang up as a categorization term on photo collection site Flickr. After this, it migrated to other web-based platforms and gained widespread popularity as a hashtag on Instagram – see for yourself – so that users could further spread their own visage.
More than 57 million images now tagged #selfie on that platform alone demonstrates why the dictionary folks couldn’t ignore it. Without the social web’s insatiable need to increase reach and connect our story with others, it’s hard to see how the term would have gained so much traction in such a short time.
Technology hasn’t just influenced language in this case, it has given birth to a new word and raised it to adulthood within a few short years.
Creative License With Language
As with many online terms selfie gained popularity as a hashtag, which itself has become a crucial part of the digital world that has seeped into everyday life.
A recent viral (there’s another!) video from Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake spoofed this, while also hitting upon the very real phenomenon that is changing the way millenials and subsequent generations speak:
From adaptive art forms like TwitLit to the widespread ability of budding writers to self-publish, technology is shifting the very way we use language and communicate ideas. Purists will argue, often quite justifiably, that language is being stretched so far beyond its correct usage as to be unrecognizable. While that may be true at the extremes, language is constantly morphing with new generations and is unlikely to shift so sharply that it
Nonetheless, selfie, hashtag and more have established themselves as common terms and the tech sector has a brief, abrasive history of shaking up any cultural norm that stands in its way.
If all that worries you, content yourself with the fact that, at the very least, selfie was able to beat out ‘twerk’ to the word of the year top spot. Things can always be worse!