Is Social Media a Learning Tool for English Language?

Mahek Khwaja

Mahek Khwaja holds a Masters in English Literature from University of Karachi. She is an ardent reader and is equally committed to Urdu literature. Her inclinations not only extend to language and literature but to other disciplines under humanities. Therefore her poetry and academic writing published within communal capacity and university recognition, is found enriched with social and philosophical critique.


We learn from history how English language was once respected in amalgamation with the Greco-Roman intellectual romance of the medieval world.


There came a time when it became a Romantic bride crying out her agony for always falling short before feelings. History also witnessed the objection put forth by the Imagists that such mellifluous usage of the language is redundant and so men of letters should concentrate on what is concrete and precise. Whatever the writing culture be, English has kept on reaffirming itself as the “monolingual elite” of the world as Paula Gonzalez in her thesis Linguistic Imperialism: A Critical Study, puts it.  It is the gatekeeper of education, jobs and social mobility in today’s world.


However the standards of this ever-important discourse are under question today. Earlier it was the cultural elite that set the agreement on which knowledge was to be conveyed and circulated among society and that agreement was naturally well-thought. But today when social media, operated by every layman, has become such a big influence, the development of the language has become faster but skeptical.


Due to social media such a rich language, emerged from a diverse socio-political context, is being reduced to a vulgar alphabet soup of acronyms, abbreviations and neologisms to minimize the inconvenience of typing. Linguistic expressions are being cut down to ‘smiley’ and acronyms such as LOL (Laugh Out Loud) and OMG (Oh My God) to suit a faster communication. New words are being added to the language storage such as sock puppet, selfie, stocker, friend, like, status, dead out and poke. But we should question if this really a value addition?  Social media does allow experimentation with language through rapid circulation and development as many bloggers like John Reed and John Sutherland would argue. But this novelty comes from an unreasonable context nothing to do with the academics of language. Such addition is disempowering language of its essential function; to convey the sincerity of expression. Most importantly there is no check and balance on grammar. This is not only causing English language to happily become a part of the ‘popular’ or ‘colloquial’ culture but making it a part and parcel of any vulgar experience.


I myself belong to a post-colonial region, Pakistan and I do have reservations against a monolithic functionality of language that language should not be in hands of a ‘powerful-few’. But as a student of English Literature, I do realize the magnitude of linguistic expression. Since this is the only guard to knowledge and information, it should be protected from misuse and abuse. Not every daily experience should be admitted in the realm of discourse. In spite people supporting social media that how it has become a tool in learning English language, I thoroughly disagree and put that it has done harm to the prestige of this language.


Perhaps Leavis and Arnold were not just being ‘elitist’ when they resented the availability of newspaper in the coffee shop and huge audiences going to movies.

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