Happy To Be Sharenting

When my son was born last November, I was very conscious that he had arrived into an era very different to that of his elder sister, even though they are only a few years apart. That difference was social media.

So while I could announce my daughter’s birth in 2005 by email, and host some photos on specialised websites, that was the extent of her early digital footprint. Fast forward to 2012 and I kept on thinking about the fact that I was now having a Facebook baby, with scan pictures just the start of the tumult I subsequently unleashed.

Given that I had commented many times on this difference, I should probably have recognised with my Wordability hat on that this new concept would inevitably require a new word. But now that it has come along, I find that I don’t like the term Sharenting at all.

It’s a clever coinage, and actually encapsulates the meaning well – parenting and sharing at the same time. But I can’t help feeling there is something pejorative about it, something slightly sneery. People like to criticise others for the way that they parent, and you could easily imagine somebody gossipping about those who are sharenting as if it is some kind of fault.

I’m also not convinced anybody will really use it conversation. It is a great word for journalists and the media to use to discuss the phenomenon, but as for the rest of us, I suspect we will just note that people are sharing information about their offspring on social media in much the same way they used to share information, albeit not as quickly and not with as wide a circle. People have always shown off pictures, boasted about achievements and nattered to anyone who will listen about how their children are doing. Social networks simply allow people to do what they have always done, just on a quicker and larger scale.

Sharenting as a concept is going nowhere, and I suspect the word is here to stay. It’s just I don’t think you will hear many people saying it.

To Facebook or Not To Facebook

One of the most common drivers of new words is technology. It is a subject to which Wordability will often return.

For my opening gambit though, I am going to spurn the obvious. Currently, I think the obvious is Twitter and the plethora of tweeps, twebinars and retweetings which it has spawned. Loath as I am to send you off somewhere else, the BBC recently published an admirable account of some of these developments, though please don’t think of following that link until you have finished reading this.

No, my current interest is technology words as verbs. Now this may not sound like a particularly enthralling avenue to go down, but come with me. Because it is actually fundamental for showing us which branches of technology have established themselves as the de facto standard. It is the linguistic rule by which we can see which brand has won.

If you think I am overstating this, think about the ubiquity of Hoover or Xerox. Everybody knows that these are brand names that have become the standard verbs to describe the act that they perform. When a brand name has triumphed to become the verb of choice, then it’s game over.

So where has the battle finished in the current technological world? I think Sky has been victorious in the world of home recording. ‘To Sky Plus’ now seems to have become the accepted phrase for recording television on any Sky Plus style box. Sky wins.

When it comes to altering images with a computer, we ‘Photoshop’ them, whatever software we have actually used. Go Adobe.

And when we search on the internet, we all know that these days we ‘Google’ for stuff, rather than search for it. In fact, you only have to look at what came before for a clue as to why Google was always going to win this battle. ‘I Yahooed myself’ conjures up an entirely different set of images altogether.

But Google could be about to become embroiled in a linguistic battle to come. It will be one which will really show us who’s boss.

There is much discussion online about whether Facebook can be used as a verb. A friend of mine commented on Facebook recently that he was watching a film while ‘Facebooking’, and then wondered whether it was really a verb.

Well, I think it is, but I think it currently has quite a specific meaning. ‘To Facebook’ is very much to use Facebook itself, to look at it, and to contact someone via Facebook. ‘I Facebooked that girl I chatted to on the bus last week’ makes sense, even if it is socially suspect.

But Facebook has not become a generic verb to describe all types of social networking, and this is where Google enters the fray. Google Plus is the company’s answer to Facebook, and the next few months will give us a clue as to whether it can halt the Zuckerberg express. And I think that linguistic usage will provide us with a clue as to how that battle is playing out.

Because it will only be when we use ‘Facebook’ or ‘Google Plus’ as a verb to describe any act of social networking that we will we truly know which technological monolith has come out on top.