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The Effect of Social Media Language on the Written English of Senior Secondary School Students

The Effect of Social Media Language on the Written English of Senior Secondary School Students


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This research study was on the effect of social media language on the written English of senior secondary school students in Eket Local Government Area. To achieve the specific objectives of the study; three research questions were formulated and answered. A survey research design was adopted for the study. The population for the study consisted of thousand and sixteen (1,016) senior secondary three (SS3) students who registered for English in 2020/2021 academic session from the seven public schools in the study area. A sample size of one hundred (100) senior secondary three (SS3) students was selected through a random sampling technique. The instrument for data collection was a questionnaire on “Social Media Language in Written English (SMLWE)” and a dictation test.

The method used in analyzing the data collected was simple percentages, mean and standard deviation. The findings of the study revealed that the use of short-form words and the use of slang on social media influence the written English of secondary school students. It is also noted that the use of icons on social media do not influence the written English of senior secondary school students in Eket Local Government Area.

Based on the findings of this study, it was recommended that government should make laws to streamline how words are used on a social media platform and that teachers of English language should create awareness among students on the effect of using social media language while doing a formal write-up.



1.1 Background to the Study

The advent of the internet in the 1990s led to major developments in the world of communication; hence the introduction of social networking sites (Arquero & Esteban, 2013). The coming into being of these sites revolutionized the world of communication and today we celebrate its improvements ranging from education to entertainment. The evolution of the internet has led to its usage as the best medium of communication whereby two-third (2/3) of the internet world’s population visit social networking sites (SNSs) thus serving as communication and connection tools. These networking sites are referred to as social media (Boyd & Ellison, 2007).

According to Maya (2015), social media are interactive digitally-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation or sharing/exchange of information, ideas, career interests, and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. Some of the most popular social media websites with over 100 million registered users include Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), TikTok, WeChat, Instagram, QZone, Weibo, Twitter, Tumblr, Baidu Tieba, and LinkedIn. Depending on interpretation, other popular platforms that are sometimes referred to as social media services include YouTube, QQ, Quora, Telegram, WhatsApp, LINE, Snapchat, Pinterest, Viber, Reddit, Discord, VK, Microsoft Teams, and more (Osharie, 2015).

Social media exploded as a category of online discourse that enables people to create content, share them, bookmark them, and network at a prodigious rate (Jha & Bhardwaj, 2012). This has breached the gap that existed in communication where people had to rely solely on traditional methods such as letters and phone calls as a mode of getting in touch with friends and relatives. Today, communication is as easy as walking into a neighbour’s residence to deliver a piece of information or vice versa through the use of social media. Social media is fast for accessing information.

It is well known that nothing interesting is ever completely one-sided, so it is for social media as it comes with both positive and negative effects. There is a correlation between social media usage and the academic performance of students in secondary schools. There have been various views and opinions which recognize four major advantages of social media in higher education. These include: enhancing relationships, improving learning motivation, offering personalized course material, and developing collaborative abilities (Davies & Cranston, 2008).

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Also, Liccardi, Ounnas, Pau, Massey, Kinnunen, Lewthwaite, Midy, and Sakar, (2007) argued that students are socially connected with one another and therefore share their daily learning experiences and conversations on various topics through social media. Kuppuswamy and Shankar (2010) argued that social network websites grab students’ attention and then divert it towards non-educational and inappropriate actions including useless chatting.

Writing is an intricate and complex task; it is the ‘most difficult of the language abilities to acquire’ (Allen & Corder, 1974, p.177). The authors also note that its level of difficulty varies between native speakers who think in the language being used and non-native speakers who think in their own native language. While writing, non-native speakers have, in general, to think about rules they need to apply; rules that native speakers are supposed to have automatized.

From classroom observation, social media language is infiltrating students’ formal writing exercises and impacting it negatively (Akinjobi, 2013). This supports Selwyn’s (2009) assertion that during classroom interaction with students, one finds that most of the students write using incorrect spelling, grammar and punctuation marks. Many use abbreviations profusely, while others have formed the habit of using textspeak. This affects the structure of sentences used as well as their spellings. This in turn does not argur well for students’ vocabulary acquisition (Mazer, Murphy, & Simonds, 2007).

Similarly, a report by Will (2017) states that 73% of teachers in a survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of think that social media and texting negatively affect students’ grammar and spelling skills. The survey also found that students often struggle with grammar, meaning, and comprehension and that 75% of the teachers are bothered when students use popular slang or “text speak” in their work while most teachers do not prioritise grammar and spelling when grading students’ work. Text speak provides an easy and cheap way of communication among the youths (students), most of whom ordinarily must have had difficulties with the not-so-uniform rules of the English language grammar and spelling (Egbe & Ekpe, 2007).

A report published in 2010 by Clarion University shows that social media language is mostly informal and allows non-standard orthography and grammatical errors. Furthermore, Ofuokwu (2010) submits that scholars are expressing concern about how social media language is affecting Nigerian students’ usage in formal contexts, especially in written essays. Similarly, Ekah (2007) states that the informal language of texting is slowly ‘but steadily encroaching on formal texts’ (p.88). Egbe and Ekpe (2007) state that they noticed evidence of spellings associated with text messages in secondary school students’ composition during the marking sessions of the May/June and Nov/Dec examinations of the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the National Examination Council (NECO).

They further outlined the techniques employed in writing text messages and by extension, social media messages. These include:

  1. Deletion of last letter: wl-will, stil-still, hav-have, luv-love.
  2. Spelling in numerals: 2-to, 4-for, 4rm-from, 4get-forget, in2-into, gr8-great.
  3. Single letter spelling: u-you, c-see, n-and, b-be, r-are, d-the.
  4. Consonant clusters: gdnt-goodnight, ppl-people, dt-that, bt-but, urs-yours. (Egbe & Ekpe, 2007, p.40). Despite the general concern about social media language creeping into students’ academic writing, it is not going away any time soon. That does not mean teachers should turn away from correcting students and doing the needful. Students and adults are frequently using the social media platforms.
  5. It is very popular among students, many of them subscribe to more than one social media platform. They also spend hours chatting, blogging, posting information and connecting with friends and family.
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They are therefore continually using social media language which may undermine their writing skills as a result of daily exposure to informal new ways of writing and language usage which do not correspond to acceptable standard writing techniques. Some features of social media language include the constant and consistent use of abbreviations and a lack of grammatical rules. These easily slip in when students write, especially students who are average and below average. Students also stand the risk of becoming lazy at writing as social media encourages the abbreviation of word and sentences.

According to Richards and Schmidt (2002) the use of language on social media site is characterized by acronyms, emoticons, neologisms and vocabulary alteration. Acronym, a feature of language use on social media, is an abbreviation formed from the initial letters of different words and pronounced as a whole sentence. Will (2014) states that the use of acronyms (abbreviations formed from the initial letters of other words are pronounced as a word) are now commonplace substitutes to whole sentences, e.g. lol (Laugh out loud), gd 9t (Good night), and tgtf (thank God it’s Friday). Language use on social media is a variety of English language that is absolutely different from the Standard English language of everyday use.

While Standard English is subject to grammatical rules and concord, language use on social media is not fashioned to abide by any grammatical rules or concord. Instead, it is open to all as just anyone can put up any word for use as far as he or she makes meaning to his or her recipient.

Language use on social media is posing a lot of threat to Standard English language usage as students now take the writing of Standard English with levity. With the introduction of social media into the scene, its effect on students’ writing is manifesting gradually. This is evident in the writing of many Nigerian students. The effect of social media language is seen mostly in these areas: grammar, spelling and text language.

With regard to grammar and spelling errors, the most common errors social media language brings are grammar and spelling errors. Grammar and spelling are more important in school but abbreviations, wrong spelling and omission of rules of grammar are acceptable on social media. This brings conflicts to writing as students write inappropriate and incorrect grammar and spelling in their writing at school.

From the viewpoint of using text language, abbreviations that are common in social media are frowned upon in formal writing. Students ought to spell words completely and not use ‘text speak’ or ‘slang’. Students’ academic writing are now marked by social media abbreviated words (text speak) and slang.

The aim of this study is to examine the effect of social media on secondary school students’ written English. Specifically, the study sought to ascertain the effect of social media language use on students’ writing and spelling. It is a fact that technology has brought a lot of innovations to all spheres of human lives including education.  The aim of this study is to examine the effect of social media on secondary school students’ written English.

1.2  Statement of the Problem

The internet is today the most important source of information and the growing dimensions of the use of social media by students cannot be underestimated. It has been observed that students devote more attention and time to social media than they do to their studies and they cannot pass their examinations well if they do not learn. Social media use contributes to lower academic performance, low self-perceptions, and less interest among students (Blattner & Fiori, 2009).

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Academic excellence plays an important role in an individual’s life; be it in the family, at social gatherings, at the workplace, in an institution, or even among peers. It has also been observed that social media affects students’ use of English. They tend to use short-form words to chat with friends and get used to it thereby replicating the same errors during examinations.

Today, students at all levels of education especially senior secondary school students have been engaged in the use of social networking sites (SNSs). This research, therefore, seeks to investigate the effect of social media language on written English of  senior secondary school students

1.3       Objectives of the Study

The main objective of this study is to investigate the effect of social media language on the written English of senior secondary school students. Specifically, the study will seek to:

  1. determine the extent short form words used on social media influence written English of senior secondary school students;
  2. ascertain the extent slang used on social media influence written English of senior secondary school students;
  3. determine the extent icons used on social media influence written English of senior secondary school students.

1.4       Research Questions

The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:

  1. To what extent does the use of short-form words on social media influence written English of senior secondary school students?
  2. To what extent does the use of slang on social media influence written English of senior secondary school students?
  3. To what extent does the use of icons on social media influence written English of senior secondary school students?

1.5  Significance of the Study

It is expected that the result of this finding will be of great benefit to the students, teachers, and government. For instance:

  1. It will enlighten the students on the negative influence that social media language has impacted on their written English.
  2. It will enable teachers of English language to create awareness among students on the effect of using social media language while doing a formal write-up.
  3. It will also help the government to make laws that streamline how words are used on social platform.

1.6  Delimitation of the Study

The study will be delimited to the effect of social media language on the written English of senior secondary school students (SS3) in Eket Local Government Area.

1.7 Limitations of the Study

This research will be conducted in public secondary schools in Eket local government area only. Moreover, the research was limited to very few government secondary schools due to time constraints.

1.8 Operational Definition of Terms

The following operational terms were defined and used for the study:

Social Media: Social media is any digital tool that allows users to quickly create and share content with the public. Social media encompasses a wide range of websites and applications.

Secondary school: A secondary school is an institution that provides secondary education. Some secondary schools provide both lower secondary education (age 12 to 15) and upper secondary education (age 15 to 18).

Written English: Written English is type of English that is transmitted through a conventional system of graphic signs (or letters).

Social Networks: Social networks are online platforms that allow users to create a public profile and interact with other users. Social networking sites usually allow a new user to provide a list of people with whom they share a connection, and then allow the people on the list to confirm or deny the connection.

Mr. Harrison

Project Gurus is a subsidiary website owned by Harrilibrary Integrated Services which was registered under the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria that was established in 1990 vide Companies and Allied Matters Act no 1 1990 as amended, now on Act cap C20 Laws of Federation of Nigeria. Our aim and objective is to assist students all over the world on their educational research works. We are committed toward assisting students at all level of education in their academic work. We have a team of seasonal writers who are vested with the current knowledge in research work. For more information contact on via Email @[email protected] or WhatsApp us on +2348127963962

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