This past weekend I went to Halloween Horror Nights hosted by Universal Studios where I fed my inner need to be spooked by killer clowns, zombies, the exorcist and other scary exhibits. What I observed was that most of the people I encountered were about same age or slightly older than me (eighteen years old). This experienced started my inquiry about why it is that us young people find it so easily amusing to be scared, and not only scared but develop a cynical attitude towards the supernatural, and even death itself. We even use words in a weird nonchalant manner that only our specific age group can comprehend. Specifically The daily use of the word “dead” has developed a humorous implicit meaning among college students concealed to older generations due to the increased usage of Twitter, a social media site, in young people promoting a cynical attitude when around others of the same age group.This new use of the word “dead” provokes a hollow effect, because the person is not actually physically dead or being serious yet in a sense might feel that they are emotionally dead.
The word “dead” has become the newer and trendier way to say “lol” (laugh out loud) when speaking or texting a friend. It is commonly used as a response to something comical that may or may not be actual laughable material. Within the last week I have heard my roommates, who are all on several types of social media including twitter, say dead in response to a meme or an amusing anecdote at least ten times. One conversation for example,
Roommate 1: Have you guys seen this Harambe meme? *shows the picture*
Oh my God that so funny!
Roommate 3: I’m dead!
demonstrates the strange usage of the word “dead” to describe a feeling of amusement. This new method of utilizing the word “dead” is bizarre and distant from the original literal meaning. If you stop and think about it is almost the complete opposite of what the word dead implies in a literal sense. Instead of laughing or saying how funny a joke was, we use a word that carries negative and serious connotation of being gone physically and in essences to describe a feeling that is typically related to those who are alive and living.
Root to this cynical approach to language in people ages 18-24 is the frequent use of social media that promotes trendy words and phrases such as the desensitized use of the word “dead”.
Scrolling down the twitter dashboard of a college student you would easily run into someone tweeting “I’m dead” in response to meme followed by a skull or a tears of joy emoji. Often times it can also used to describe a feeling of admiration and being ecstatic about a certain topic such as a favorite T.V. character or second hand embarrassment. Data presented by Hoelzl projects the twitter demographic that people ages 18-24 are the third largest group with ages the 25-44 taking the first and second largest age groups. Regardless, the third largest demographic being only slightly younger than the first two, could be seen as following the trends of those older to them who according to McCulloch popularized the use of acronyms such as lol or omg.
Because this use of the word dead is popular among social media users it is important to note the results of a recent study from early 2016, “There was linear association between social media depression for all three social media use variables” ( Lin 27) further recognizing that social media makes us in sense robots following preset trends. Although the usage of the word “dead” in the context joking around between young adults may seem harmless we must remember that death is something to be taken seriously. We must take reign of the conversation and bring it back to life.
Hoelzel, Mark. “UPDATE: A Breakdown Of The Demographics For Each Of The Different Social Networks”. Business Insider. N.p., 2016. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.
Lin, Liu yi et al. “ASSOCIATION BETWEEN SOCIAL MEDIA USE AND DEPRESSION AMONG U.S. YOUNG ADULTS”. Depression and Anxiety 33.4 (2016): 323-331. Web.
McCulloch, McCulloch. “LOL! The Acronym That Made The Internet Turns 25 – Here’s How We Got Here”. Independent 2014. Web. 3 Oct. 2016.