English, for me, is a second language. A lot of the things that come as instinct for native speakers come to me only if I’m attentive and careful. And every day, every time I speak, I strive to get to right. I consider it my worst nightmare if I make a silly mistake that I know I shouldn’t have. And that obsession has made me who I am today: a sucker for proper grammar. Whenever I hear someone misuse grammar rules and diction, it makes me recoil in horror.
Nowadays, though, people seldom speak with context. It’s all just text-speak. Consider Lol, TGIF, and ROLF. To me they’re just random letters put together, but to a lot of people, these are essential words in a conversation. Even without much of an effort, these words have crept into our everyday communication. HashtagReality. And anyone who doesn’t know the meaning of these words are old-fashioned and unfit for the age of the social media, where people speak face to face like they speak on Facebook walls.
Facebook, in particular, has kindled this rise of new words and trends. So much so that, “facebooking” has become a verb and “friending” someone on Facebook is an actual action. Earlier, when someone moved into town they’d say, “I’ll make friends.” Now, though, “I’ll friend you.” Friend has become an easier term, a more ‘natural’ verb. On a side note, though, if anyone ever says that to me, they’ll never be my friend. I’ll accept their request on Facebook, but will never consider them a friend. Which leads me to say, Facebook has decimated our language in such a way, that even “friend” doesn’t mean “friend” anymore.
Here’s the weird part, though: A lot of people don’t even know that there’s another word for “friending.” A word that’s been around even before Facebook came into the picture. It’s almost as if people don’t remember the word, “Befriend” anymore. I think it’s a beautiful word. It fits the situation, and we should use it to say we’re adding someone as a friend on Facebook. I don’t see why people choose to cut out two letters of the word — which are not even prefixes — for no proper reason. Maybe this lack of basic knowledge is what’s making us a dumber generation. We only know words that appear on our Facebook feed and news that show up under the Trending section. We neither think beyond that nor do we explore further than that.
The way our current world works, if we don’t know the proper word for something, we can create another. It’s fine to create words at will. Will Shakespeare did it, we’d argue. After all, the main purpose of language is to communicate with each other. As long as the other party understands what we’re trying to say, we can speak in any way we like — that’s the modern mentality. And the reality is that I can’t say it’s wrong.
What I can say, though, is that just because “lol” is shorter and more common than “That’s funny” or “Good one, Bess” it doesn’t mean we should use them all the time. It’s time we paid some attention to our language because we’ve taken it so much for granted, that it’s losing its essence. “Befriend” gone unnoticed is just the start.
There’s a reason English has prevailed throughout the years. We still have 400 year-old Shakespearean words etched deep in our lives. Well, we don’t have to use them in our everyday speaking; we don’t have to adhere to Elizabethan English. However, even though we can’t uphold the traditional recipe for communication, the least we can do is respect it. We should at least know what’s available to us, and use them when we can. Because no matter how much we advance in technology, we are naught if we let the subtleties of our languages disappear in a wave of text-speak.