If you have checked your teen’s Facebook page recently, you might wonder why some status updates seem more like alphabet soup than a narration of the day’s activities. Facebook symbols are a natural outgrowth of text and online message board symbols that date to the early days of those technologies. Early adopters, many of them technophiles, used symbolism to convey more complex emotions and ideas than they could put into words. Over the years, those original symbols have been tweaked, and thousands of others added, by users around the world.
Emoticons and Pictures
If you spend any time on Facebook, you will soon notice how difficult it is to convey emotions. Without the benefit of tone and non-verbal language, a joke could seem like a harsh condemnation, or a sad statement might be interpreted as a joke. Emoticons add a layer of clarification. Simple emoticons represent a face turned sideways and are created with a combination of symbols that loosely resemble that face. More advanced Facebook users sometimes use symbols to draw elaborate pictures such as a rose or a stuffed animal.
The bane of parents and educators, text speak is a shortened version of English designed to use as few characters as possible. Many frequent texters carry over their text speak on their Facebook pages. Abbreviations such as LOL -- laughing out loud, ROFL -- rolling on the floor laughing, and OMG -- oh my God/oh my goodness, have been around since the earliest days of the Internet. Others, such as CU l8r -- see you later -- are more recent developments.
Originally developed for Twitter, hashtags were adopted by Facebook in 2013. A hashtag, created by pressing the pound key, creates a link to all other posts with the same hashtag. This allows users to find discussions centered on a particular topic, even when the user does not know the people in a particular discussion. An example is #firstworldproblems, which is used by people who complain about something, such as missing a spa appointment, that they know would be irrelevant in a country where people struggle to eke out a living.
Photo tags allow Facebook users to identify their friends in uploaded photographs. That friend then receives a notice that he was tagged. Photo tagging allows multiple people to share a single digital copy of a photograph rather than having to e-mail the photo to everyone involved or make multiple hard copies to pass around.