Cyber socialising: emerging genres and registers of intimacy

20 Aug 2013

The popularity of digital media networks for socialising among the youth is well documented. Much has been written on the emerging norms of textese, the global shorthand for chatting. However, becoming a proficient user involves more than simply mastering this code: it requires knowing the appropriate genres and registers for chatting. This article aims to explore these conventionalised genres and styles from a discourse analytical perspective. It analyses data collected by first-year students in the Linguistics Department at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) who use an application called MXit for chatting with their friends. The analysis shows how, despite the seemingly unrestrained and non-standard nature of MXit chatting, it is highly conventionalised and structured and requires a particular ‘register of intimacy’ which relies heavily on evaluative language and affective markers. However, it is simultaneously fluid and innovative thereby enabling users to ‘style’ for themselves identities which combine elements of global sophistication with local situatedness.