Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Scott S. Liu, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Justin Brown, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Justin Brown, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roxanne Watson, Ph.D.

Keywords

language, motivations, social media, textism, uses and gratifications

Abstract

This study is an exploratory look into the use of text-based slang, or textisms, in modern communication. People use textisms in multiple media of communication, whether it is in text messages, emails, and various types of social media. This study asked a focus group about their uses and gratifications from textisms. The focus group delved into their appreciations as both users and receivers. Participants reflected on their personal experience and preferences with textisms for their personal communications as well as their opinion for various types of businesses using them in their larger message design efforts.

The participants were comprised of youthful twenty to twenty-two year olds in undergraduate studies at the University of South Florida. Each was currently enrolled in a media studies course at the time of the discussion group. Each member of the nine person group provided information. Each was asked as an individual to reflect on specific questions while also adding their own opinion to the larger group discussion.

General themes pulled from the discussion was the creation of an author's personality, textisms use as a way to create tone, and the varying levels of context needed within personal communication. Participants were in agreement that an individual could be characterized by his or her message design, especially through that individual's use of textisms. By establishing the author's personality, textisms created expectations from the audience. They help reinforce the relationship of those engaged. Tone is often removed from simple text-based communication. Through the use of textisms, or lack of, tone is able to be added to short messages with the use of a single textism. Playfulness, sarcasm, and seriousness are all able to be quickly established by an author with the additive of a textism. Context is always something to be aware of when interacting with any audience. Gender, generational, formality, and overall relationship are all aspects that impact the interpretation of a message, especially a message that contains textisms. Being aware of how a gender, an age group, or an individual will receive a message further add to the relevance of that message. More information is always best, but if there are limitations, then there are general approaches that can be used to help develop the most salient message.

Businesses had a specific set of expectations from the discussion group that shaped their responses. The consensus for this group was that textisms should be refrained from use within any business context. The group did allow for leeway when it came to more casual style businesses ranging from fast-food restaurants to youth-targeted products, but ultimately said there could be a confusion if a company with an older demographic was using textisms, as it would be appear to be targeting a younger audience. As this group is comprised of young people with a vision for their futures within the business world, their approach to textisms in business was also attached to that vision. They see business as very formal, and that formality is expected to translate into all areas, including communications.

This study pulled valuable overall themes for an exploratory study. The specific details of a small sample group could and should be tested for greater validity, such as the strong and opposing reaction to varying types of smiley faces. The group had conflicting expectations for certain types of textisms and these expectations were from a narrow set of demographics. Further inquiry into this topic will lead to a better understanding of how language is evolving and how those changes are being used in today's and tomorrow's communication.

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