Social Media and Composition

Social media is providing people with a fun and interactive way to improve their writing without them necessarily being conscious of it. For many people who I have observed using social media, it has made them more conscious about what they are actually writing. Even when many people are on Facebook using all of this slang, Ebonics, and intentional (and unintentional) incorrect use of language, I have found that they are still heavily focused on the content of what it is they want to communicate. One of the reasons I encourage blogging is it’s a form of social media that is a fun way to give people practice with their writing. To ameliorate your writing, you are going to have to practice writing more. Blogging is a way to make yourself vulnerable to the world through your writing and offers you an opportunity to receive feedback on your writing from a global audience.

Facebook has a “Note” function that allows you to pen your thoughts and share them with all of your Facebook friends or those who you “tag.” I encourage more people who use Facebook to use the “Note” function to share your thoughts with your Facebook friends. It’s a great way to share your thoughts that take more words than you are allowed through your Facebook status.

As a university Composition instructor, I have had great success with integrating social media into the Composition classroom. I have engaged my students with blogging, Facebook, and Twitter. Many classroom assignments that I have given have involved the use of social media. What I have discovered is social media makes more students become excited about Composition. Students who are less vocal in class during classroom discussions become more willing to share their thoughts through Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Twitter forces Composition students to be much more disciplined writers because they have to say something meaningful with only 140 characters available to them. Now, if you have not used Twitter before you may not think that this is not a serious writing challenge, but being limited to only 140 characters can be quite challenging when you have something truly substantive to articulate. I encourage more college professors to integrate social media into your diverse classrooms. I strongly believe that you will find it to be rewarding.

Before I end this piece, I would just like to encourage you to be more conscious about your writing when using various forms of social media. Bad writing is never a good look. Of course, social media allows us all to have more freedom to be less formal than when we’re writing for academic purposes, but always be aware of the type of person you are presenting to the world when you communicate with others through social media. When blogging, I certainly don’t write like I do when I’m writing my academic papers because I want to be able to reach a much more general and global audience, but I do think it’s vital to maintain some formal standards with your social media writing.

One grammatical error that I would love to see more people using social media address is noun-pronoun disagreement. For example, one might write the following: “Most of the time a lawyer has their own best interests in mind.” In this aforementioned sentence, the pronoun (“their”) that refers the reader back to the noun (“lawyer”) does not agree. Of course, I could get really sophisticated with you about this error but, as I stated earlier, I want to be able to reach a more general and global audience.  I just want you to think about it numerically: “Lawyer” is one person, right? “Their” has to be more than just one person, right? Okay, now, let’s eliminate this grammar problem from our writing. Thank you!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison