October 31, 2014

Text Slang – It’s Not As Scary As You Think


While I was at the Blueglass Florida conference I had the chance to talk with Drew Curtis over several beers. We talked about the whole Reddit / Comedy central thing he had just posted, and it was a great discussion that got me thinking about my own experiences with mainstream media.

If you’ve ever read Drew Curtis’ book: “It’s not news it’s Fark, how mass media tries to pass off crap as news” then you’re familiar with the common cycles that mainstream media continuously follows. A good example of this is the “AAA expects there to be lots of traffic on the 4th of July weekend” style articles. All news is cyclical, and whatever industry you’re in is no exception. Just look for the patterns, they’ll be there.

From August to October, the media loves to run out parenting articles in preparation for back to school. Among those they like to talk about things that scare parents – things like drugs, sex, and the price of Justin Bieber tickets.

This is a great season for me, since NoSlang.com, an Internet slang dictionary I run, is often featured in these types of articles. I learned long ago that most of my visitors were not only confused by slang and acronyms, but they were parents too – so I added content targeted toward them. I love the press and I’m always willing to give a quote, interview, or simply consult on related articles. I have a passion for language and I love being able to help – that, and it just make sense to target content toward your audience.

Since 2006 I’ve been contributing to news stories – and I honestly believe they’re useful – but I’d like to speak to the fear-mongering tone for a bit if I can.

Many of the articles, like this one on CNN like to talk about the dangers of text slang. The stories are often predicated around cracking the code or sexting, but often focus too much on outliers and not enough on what actual teens are doing.

I should probably mention that I’m a 29 year old with no kids of my own, so while I don’t have any experience with what teens are actually doing, I do talk to several parents who contact me through NoSlang.com. When they talk, I listen.

What I’ve learned is that text slang isn’t as scary as the media makes it out to be. We’ve all heard the narrative about how kids are hiding stuff using slang, but that’s not actually the case. The truth is less frightening. It turns out, all kids use slang and acronyms to communicate – including the small percentage of teens who are, in fact, hiding something.

Fear mongering articles may be fun, and I’m always willing to provide a point of view (Media, my contact information is at RyanMJones.com ) – but if you look at any of those articles I linked above you’ll notice a trend: Comments from kids saying “what the fuck is this?”

Slang is a diverse and ever changing subset of language. Similar terms can have different meanings to different groups of people, but the goal is always the same: Saving time and keystrokes, not hiding naughty activities.

Sure, some teens will get involved with sex, drugs, and whatnot – but they’re the exception to the norm.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that there’s no reason to panic if you look at your child’s cell phone and see things like “BRB CTN POS” or “IDK CML.” If your teen is up to no good, there will be other warning signs. Try talking to them, you’ll be amazed what you learn. It could turn out that the “parent over shoulder” warning was simply because they don’t feel comfortable talking about their Justin Bieber crush in front of mom – and who can blame them?

Related Links:
NoSlang.com Internet Slang Translator.
AllSlang – Slang Search Engine.
TextSendr – Translate text into slang and send it as a text message.
Tiny.Tw – Shorten text & URLs into slang.

About Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is an SEO from Detroit. By day he works as a manager of SEO & Analytics at SapientNitro where his team performs SEO for Fortune500 clients. By night he's either playing hockey or attempting to take over the world with his own websites - which he would have already succeeded in doing had it not been for those meddling kids and their dog. The views expressed here have not been paid for and belong only to Ryan, not any of his employers or clients. Follow Ryan on Twitter at: @RyanJones, add him on Google+ or visit his personal website: www.RyanMJones.com