Looking at current social media trends and their lasting impact on culture, one has to question the effect this new media technology has on literacy.
I recently was assigned to review resumes for an entry-level position at my company, a job that includes social media responsibilities. I read through dozens of cover letters and resumes, and was surprised by the informal word choice and poor grammar many of these candidates used. It certainly got my attention, albeit not in a good way.
While there is a time and place for informalities, one should always adhere to proper grammar, sentence structure and spelling, especially when reaching out to a potential employer. It made me wonder if social media channels and the 140-character Twitter limit shorten our attention span and affect our ability to construct proper sentences.
The connection between media and education has been a debate for decades. In the mid-20th century, radio and television were looked upon as dangerous media that threatened the fundamentals of teaching. Media ecologist and postmodernist Neil Postman even went so far as to link television to the demise of modern culture.
For those who feel social media has increased literacy by allowing us to be more personal, expressive and concise, I would argue social media channels like Twitter and technologies like texting have created a shorthand approach to written communication.
Results from a May 2013 study by Brandwatch show Twitter to be driving the English language evolution, as users are almost twice as likely to stray from official English on Twitter than Facebook and are 25 percent more likely than on Google+. Hashtags, elongated words, abbreviations, acronyms and emoticons may have a place in social media, but they do not belong in formal correspondence such as a cover letter. I wonder if some social media savvy individuals recognize that OMG and YOLO are not real words, or if these terms have become so widely used that they are now accepted as normal vernacular.
Social media has made a lasting impact on our culture. Publicly traded Facebook has more than a billion users worldwide, and Twitter, with its 215 million active users, recently filed for an initial public offering. It's clear these sites are not going to be leaving us any time soon.
With social media here to stay in some form or another, more emphasis needs to be placed on proper written communication. We need to look to formal education as a way to understand media literacy, as we cannot expect technology to teach our youth. Casual forms of written communication may be appreciated between friends in a text message, but corresponding this way with a potential employer is not an effective way to market one's skills.
Jamie Perkins is associate marketing director of Sunset Publishing and a communication and leadership graduate student at Gonzaga University. She contributed this column to the San Jose Mercury News.