The growth of social media in the turn of the 21st Century has seen a shifting trend in the building of digital discourse. Before the advent of social media, there were several groups that used digital discourse to advance a common goal. For example, Virginia Tech’s Center for Digital Discourse and Culture (CDDC) started operating nearly two decades ago with the aim of advancing the success of cyber schools that would design, manage, organize and teach online undergraduate and graduates. The growth of social media, however, has created a new paradigm of digital discourse, making it the newest and the most progressive means of setting a group’s agenda in the 21st Century. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have transformed the way digital communities advance their agenda. Social media has caused a buzz in the manner in which communities within them interact, react, discuss, aggravate and socialize in their membership. The overriding themes within these social media digital communities are that they are able to access the open source publishing where the production and consumption is unlimited. The growth of new digital discourse community in social media at the turn of the new century has not only created new frontiers in the empowerment of the society but has also given voice to the people who were not in a position to share in the previous groups, albeit amid the controversy of language dynamism. Twitter as a digital community has in the last few years developed into a powerful platform for microblogging.
Discourse community is based on the concept of socio-rhetorical construct, which offers an insight into the general questions as far as academic language variation in various cultures and generations (Swales 24). In fact, Swales states, “a discourse community consists of a group of people who link up in order to pursue objectives that are prior to those of socialization and solidarity” (24). According to Wardle & Downs (78), the creators of social media digital discourse began to see the need to develop platforms for thought leadership, which would provide ample space for the people to think freely so as to gain control of information initially owned by the mainstream media. The idea of digital discourse began when the printing press when against the rules of the Catholic Church and began printing the Bible for mass distribution. So far, the church is using the online version of the Bible, a shift that is attributed to a thought leadership of digital discourse.
As per Swale’s description of a discourse community, the set of rules as presented in the community whether formal or informal sets the rules of interaction. Twitter enables individuals to become empowered with their own thoughts, ambitions as well as the ability to express thoughts that would neither be possible in the mainstream media nor the socially accepted in-person interaction. Social media, a platform for digital revolution has enabled people to express themselves and lay claim to their own thoughts, with the flexibility to turn it off and on when the author deems fit. On twitter, communities of conversations are based on 140 characters, with hash tags as the platform for organizing the thoughts of community members. This leads to systemized like-minded discussions. What is recognized in this platform is that language is evolving, not through abbreviations but by context. It is this context that gives businesses equal opportunities in terms of marketing.
Critical assessment of the Twitter as a digital discourse community is emphasized by the increasing unbounded analysis of internet, mobile personal digital assistants, mobile phones, and social media. Digital discourse presents hybrid features of both written and spoken discourse (Wardle & Downs 66). Social media digital discourse is changing the language use, with new terms cropping up to determine the cause of action. The intercommunication is meant to focus on the messages to achieve the goals of the group members. What is certain is the existence of new genres of communication environments that the new entrants into the communities will have to confront in order to fit. For instance, a new entrant into the Twitter world will have to come to terms with new terms as twits, trends, follow, unfollow, tweet, retweet, hashtags and many other terms. Although the definitive aspects of these terms can be easily mastered, the most important aspect of being in the social media is to understand and know how to apply them so as to fit in the community. Fitting in the group means the ability to have meaningful contributions on a trending conversation.
Twitter Discourse communities have characterized English terms and words for specific purposes. The community practice from a discourse perspective, with the aim and needs in the minds of the participants. Baym (129) observes that social media must be given accolades because it has shifted the dimension of online inquiry and digital access to digital participation. The participation gap is realized with the unequal opportunity to experience, create, and share the self-generated short stories. Shifting the trend in long blogs to micro-blogs is Twitter, which offers the perfect opportunity for one to express himself or herself with multiple perspectives.
As a source of creativity and the freedom of expression, the new media provides an opportunity to become active participants in the media, and not just passive consumers of popular culture products from the mainstream media. Moreover, these sites are becoming more than just a platform for cultural expression and entertainment but represents a meaningful discourse on socio-political agendas. According to Baym (201), any attempt to distance yourself from social media such as Twitter is like excluding yourself from online politics or digital democracy. For instance, 2008 saw the emergence of political participation in social media, with civic engagement taking center stage of President Obama’s campaign. What this tells us is that people have the power to shape their personal connections through the ways they choose to understand and use embodied interactions. The other perspective is that the norms as represented in social media is based on continuous development of ideas on how to interact more. By being conscious of what the social media can offer, people can choose to analyze the consequences, intervene and influence the process of norm development in our own relationships with peers, family, and culture. This form is what has defined interactions on Twitter and other social media platforms.
The social media discourse communities have emerged as a very critical aspect of today’s society. Research into its use and consequences suggests a trend that is likely to remain oriented towards preserving the authenticity of human connections. The technology behind social media sites such as Twitter is based on the desire to continue fostering personal connections that have been made disatant apart by the rising mobility of humans. Along the way of this community discourse are diversions, distractions, confusions, and happiness. The diversions from the mainstream mass media, the distraction from mainstream language use, confusion on what is next and happiness that we can easily connect with people in our lives.