Gifs, memes, stickers and emoticons influence the way youngsters use language to communicate and this has modified human interaction at large
In a video released recently, Irrfan Khan explains how BRB is not ‘Baba Re Baba’ and LOL is not ‘Laila O Laila’, but they are abbreviations that one must learn to keep up with the way human communication is changing for millennials. He is seen endorsing a wearable gadget, quite similar to an activity tracker, which enables the wearer’s brain to receive special signals from social media and keep them updated with internet slang, dank memes, lessons in twerking and Justin Bieber’s songs. It is a spoof, and the product does not exist, but viewers of the advertisement wished that it did because now it’s all about being cool and ‘rolling with it.’ Every era through history has had an influence on the development of English as a language. Our’s is the age of digitisation and social media and it is changing the way human beings interact.
Not so funny in real life
According to statistics by Facebook, people spend about 3 hours a day on the portal where they have the option of expressing themselves with a sticker, gif or meme. It saves them the effort of constructing entire sentences by using logic, grammar and some amount of creativity. Another catalyst that has encouraged a change in the way human beings interact is Twitter and its 140-character word limit. The idea is to make you express yourself with brevity, and to not invest too much time in updating yourself about what’s happening around you. And with so much anger, uneasiness and hatred brewing all around, netizens often use a meme and lighten up a controversial topic rather then indulge in debate and leave the issue at hand to be dealt with later.
Rohan Swamy, a writer who recently graduated in Creative Writing from Trinity College, Dublin, says, “Meme theory is a great way to use dark humour to put a point across usually dealing with nihilism or narcissism. I think this kind of humour rarely transcends into the real world. What I mean is people rarely employ humour in real life as much as they do online.”
The predecessor of gifs and memes was the humble sms, informs Swamy, adding that it is okay for interactions to change with the way technology evolves. “Also, the good old days when one would listen and the other would talk, is gone. While social networking portals have become, what Indian school teachers would call ‘fishmarkets’ where everyone is talking and nobody’s quiet to listen, real-life conversations now emulate the virtual world, where the way to stay ahead is by trolling. That’s how conversations have evolved,” says Swamy.
Just look, don’t read
Kiran Manral, author and mother of a teenage boy, says, “It is a visual age, and we respond more to visuals than words. As such, memes and gifs become instant ways to communicate what we feel or think without us racking our brains to come up with the right words to express what we want to say.”
Manral, who shares a generation gap with the millennials, recalls an incident that made her feel like she must update her vocabulary and get familiar with pop culture memes to have interesting conversations on social media. “Well, there was a tweet that said something about Kurt Cobain and I replied to it pointing out that the photograph was of Owen Wilson. I got that they look similar, in some ways, but I really didn’t get the joke. One young person on Twitter patiently tried to explain to me that the ‘mix up’ with the names was intentional and it was a meme, but I still haven’t got the humour of it,” says Manral.
She feels that the way communication is changing now is for the better, because you can reach people instantly, but on the flip side it is becoming intrusive too.