How often do you use Twitter, Instagram or Facebook? How often do your friends and family use similar social media? What’s the big deal?

Facebook currently has over one billion users. To put that statistic into perspective, Mark Zuckerberg’s creation could be the 3rd largest country on Earth. Its population falls just behind India’s 1.2 billion and China’s 1.34 billion inhabitants.

The internet is everywhere, affecting us daily. We use it for communication, research and entertainment. Schools use it for education. Companies use it for marketing. With the simple click of a mouse, you can send documents to someone in Germany, or a photo to someone in South Africa. The internet is presently the most powerful technology humans have created.

What happens when you integrate people from hundreds of ethnic backgrounds, religions and countries on a single, massive platform? You may be surprised when you unearth online friendships and genuine discussion. Humans are social creatures, and we will communicate with almost anyone who sparks our interest. Sometimes that person just happens to live thousands of miles away.

Slang from different regions fuse together and we begin to shorten the way we speak for convenience. You could cut down the word “because” to “bc” and most native English-speakers would be able to understand easily.

Internet users are constantly creating new jargon based off of shared experience or even pop culture. Useful websites like UrbanDictionary can help an outsider keep up. But generally, someone is bound to be left out.

This isn’t necessarily negative. It may create a sense of community surrounding the people who speak in the same fashion- an example fairly common at White Station is AAVE (African American Vernacular English.) As the internet’s influence continues to spread outward, dialects that are sometimes considered far from what is standard can become more widely accepted. This may eventually serve to lessen social prejudices.

Although the use of slang both online and offline can be a very good thing, it can also force those who do not speak English as a first language into an uncomfortable position. For example, Thomas Foster, White Station’s Japanese language instructor, introduced the contraction “y’all” to our newest Japanese exchange student earlier in the year.

“It’s highly difficult for foreigners to learn new slang in a different language,” Foster said.

A student who has only recently begun to speak English will have multiple dialects to become familiar with if he or she moves to the United States. There is Memphis-based slang, teenager-based slang and even White Station-specific slang that he or she will hear daily and may not understand at first.

Foreigners are not the only ones who may find themselves isolated by the use of slang. Over half of the people who use social media are under thirty years of age. Consequently, members of the older population can have difficulty with brand-new colloquialisms.

Some teachers like Foster have no problem understanding their students, but he claims this may be the result of being surrounded by teenagers during school hours. Foster mentions a time when he used a slang word he had picked up from his students in a regular conversation. His adult friend did not quite catch on to the term because he wasn’t familiar with the lingo.

Most high school students rarely seem to realize how their language has evolved since the internet was introduced.

“When you get used to it, you stop hearing it in conversation,” Trinity Simmers (9) said.

It is likely that social media will continue to shape the way we communicate in the future. Only time will tell what will be trending next year.