#BigBrother

Last April, I jumped on the bandwagon and signed up for a Twitter account. My first tweet? “I am eating pie in bed. Is this what ‘news’ has come to?” Apparently so—but according to some, I was voluntarily diminishing my vocabulary because of “impatience with more complicated modes of discourse” and succumbing to “thought control” at the hands of a criminal mastermind based in California.

Lately, the blogosphere has been aflutter discussing Twitter’s influence on modern-day language, likening the micro-blogging service to Newspeak, the fictional language from George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four that aims to control the way people think. By removing synonyms and antonyms in favour of monosyllabic words that double as both a noun and a verb, dictionaries will effectively slim down and the need for deep thought diminishes.

Oh, and did I mention I’m changing my name to Julia?

According to blogger Yves Smith of nakedcapitalism.com, the comparison of Twitter to Newspeak stems from users’ willingness to dumb down their thoughts, creating a culture intolerant of longer prose pieces that require the use of the scroll button.

Indeed, Twitter’s most fascinating feature is its transparent simplicity, aiming to solve the “information overload traditionally associated with online communication” by giving users control over who sees their updates, whose updates they receive and how much time they wish to devote to tweeting. Not so, says Smith, who argues that Twitter’s 140-character rule makes it impossible to communicate anything “complicated or nuanced” and feeds an “addiction” and “false sense of urgency,” sacrificing human relationships for instant gratification and giving it a distinctly Orwellian aura.

Okay, Smith has a point. But is Twitter really diminishing our vocabulary with every tweet into total oblivion by 2050?

Despite Twitter being an attractive time waster and a model for compulsively jotting down one’s thoughts, I doubt my ability to command the English language articulately has been diminished by choosing to condense my thoughts into 140 characters or less on occasion. Also, unlike the totalitarian-driven concept of Newspeak, signing up for and using Twitter is completely voluntary. Most importantly, Twitter is what you make of it. Like all guilty pleasures—alcohol, junk food, going to Stages—it’s meant as an escape, a sidebar to a life otherwise filled with healthy doses of reality and a full vocabulary.

Whether the skeptics like it or not, Twitter continues to be a powerful and popular communication tool for everyone from celebrities to professors and students to soccer moms. Besides, let’s face it: Orwell would probably have a Twitter account if he were still alive, and you would totally follow him. Orwellian mind control tool or not, I plan to keep micro-blogging my deep thoughts about Betty White, obnoxious bar-goers and my under-the-covers adventures with pie. I doubt the Thought Police will be knocking on my door anytime soon.

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