There have been, over the last hundred years or so, many minor revolutions in the manner in which we communicate, beginning with the telegraph, the telephone and, in more recent years, the Internet with its many different forms of communication. Where once a written communication might take several months to reach its destination, it is now possible to communicate with almost anyone in any country throughout the world, either verbally through the telephone, or in writing through e-mail, chat rooms, video chat and similar. With the manifold changes in communicative possibilities, the world of commerce has opened up and, with it, communication between private individuals. With changes to communication methods has come a change in the manner in which we communicate, how we speak to other people, and the style of language we use. The former rules of etiquette, mainly based around letter writing, have had to be rewritten and a new generation of Internet users has literally created a language of their own.
Aside from e-mail, text messages and differing forms of chat rooms, the world of communication has been drastically changed by social networking sites. Forced to be brief, through a limited space for status updates or messages, a system of abbreviation has grown up around these new sites which, to the uninitiated, seems almost impossible to break through and understand. Where once smileys and emoticons were used to express emotions, the abbreviation has gained hold to such an extent that a translator is needed at times. Leader in this language revolution, in the pushing of necessary abbreviation to get a message across in as short a space, as few characters as possible, is the social networking site Twitter.
The initial Twitter site, an Internet-based status and messaging system, began with the idea that if anything needed to be communicated it could be done in one hundred and forty characters or less. Brevity became the order of the day, and users were forced to construct their thoughts and ideas in as short a written space as humanly possible. Those unable to convey what they wished to say within the maximum number of characters either had to send two – or more – messages, or find some other means of bringing their message across. In recent years other Internet services had sprung up to compliment the Twitter ideal, allowing users to send longer messages where, through the use of a short link, readers are taken to a new site to read the rest of a message. Photographs and other images were added to the array of possibilities, with Twitter software often showing a thumbnail version for those unwilling or unable to click through and view the full version.
Despite the availability of services allowing longer messages, many users rely on abbreviations to get their message across, or to give the simplest of status updates. The well known terms LOL and BRB for Laugh Out Loud and Be Right Back, were soon joined by considerably more complex abbreviations only known by a select few. A new language, crossing borders and the limits of foreign language ability, was born and is steadily growing. What, for the uninitiated, appears to be a jumble of meaningless letters is, for those in the know, a clear message in its shortest possible form which jumps across all language limitations. A person using the abbreviation LOL in Russia is going to be understood by readers in China, the United States and elsewhere throughout the world, regardless of whether the reader can speak or understand Russian.