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Institute of Education

Research & Expertise to Make a Difference in Education & Beyond

IOE Expert Ivan Smirnov Explores Correlations between Social Media Texting Style and Academic Performance


A recent study by IOE expert Ivan Smirnov, which investigates linkages between social media texting practices and user literacy, has been published in a multidisciplinary academic repository by the Cornell University Library.   


Amidst head-spinning technological advances and ongoing digitization, social networking media have evolved to span an ever-growing population cohort across the globe, and primarily people of younger generations.

For all the benefits of digital networking, many parents and educators are increasingly concerned about the expanding use of social media by youngsters. What is particularly alarming is that language simplifications such as emoticons, lexical contractions, loose grammar and other phenomena typical of social media texting style may be a sign of deteriorating language skills. However, little research has been done so far to suggest any clear linkages between netizens’ texting practices and literacy.       

Is the complexity of social media discourse actually decreasing? If so, does it signal the language degradation that parents and educators are afraid of? In his recent paper, IOE expert Ivan Smirnov addresses these questions by analyzing a unique dataset that contains social media texts posted by almost 950 thousand users from a large European city over nine years.

Ivan finds that the post complexity measure chosen, which is the average word length, strongly correlates with academic performance: users from higher-performing schools produce more complex texts than users from low-performing schools. The study also shows that post complexity grows with age, and the overall language complexity of posts among the analyzed sample is constantly increasing. This may suggest that the worries about language degradation are not warranted.

Read full paper