Janeta Vardzelashvili                                                                                                     Back to catalog
Tbilisi, Georgia

A Heterogenic Unite of Interpersonal Communication in Social Networks

Interpersonal communication in social networks is a kind of multimodal discourse. The integrality of social media discourse is a synthesis of complex components. A vivid example of mixing codes of various semiotic systems in social media discourse is an element of subculture - the internet-meme: a verbal-graphic construct, a picture with a text. We are analyzing the internet-meme as a heterogenic communicative unit, the replicator of the cultural texts.

The need to communicate is the one of the most important conditions for human existence. According to Сheryl L. Coyle and Heather Vaughn, “Social networking” was not created in the age of the Internet; it existed long before. Social networks exists because humans are societal and require relationships with others humans in order to survive” [3, 13].
Thanks to technology, we can stay in touch with people wherever we happen to be. In the 21-st century, on-line word is becoming a new reality. This “parallel reality”, “new word”, is specifically, augmented and undermined. The part of this “new word” are multiple Social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tagged, Одноклассники, ВКонтакте and so on.
Internet communication is using English or German, French or Russian, Georgian or Turkish language, but each of this “majesty language is rapidly being devolved into a series of grunts, phrases, and moronic mutant words that would offend even a caveman. True blame lies not with teachers, parents or politicians, but with the Internet Culture at large” [6].*
Contemporary Linguistic is not only recognizing, but is trying to analyze why did people start using language unclear or doing something different with words and grammar. It is certain universality, but we think, this is only the one question of the general problem “The way people use Language in Internet”.
In this article, we are analyzing interpersonal communication in social network as a kind of multimodal discourse. This multimodal discourse has following constitutional features - scale, speed, a mixture of linguistic and visual codes, unlimited themes, internationality, distance and interactivity. Additional features include idiology, impact on mass consiousness, anonimity, emotionality, elements of verbal discourse and playful modus. Therefore the integrality of social media discourse is a synthes of complex components.
A vivid example of mixing codes of various semiotic systems in social media discourse is a subculture element, the internet meme. It is a verbal and graphic construct, a picture with text on a current topic that is oriented towards mutual perception. The virtual community instantaneously replicates it.
We are analyzing internet meme as a unit of net-thought, a heterogenic unit of communication, a replicator of cultural texts, that varies based on genres, stylistic, functional and structural signs (motivators, de-motivators, advice, “Trollface” and so on). Material for analysis was data gained in the Facebook social network.
Combinatorics of linguistic and visual components reflects the cultural text visualization trend in modern society. May be, meaning message of an internet-meme is the strive of a person towards maximally explicit gestalts of structured knowledge and experience, semantics, allusions, that are generally and individually marked and open for interpretation.
Internet-meme is transferred from a user to use, but doing replication the meme may not lose its emotional signal. Communicative effect is provided through the synergy of linguistic and visual channels.
Key elements for decoding meme-messages is the implication of guessing and semantic play that are impossible without background knowledge. A vivid example of this is a meme based on the reproduction of Gogen's 'Woman with fruit' from the hermitage museum. Woman has a face of a crocodile and the signature-slogan says 'Gogen's crocodile'. This is a word play for those who are familiar with the famous Russian cartoon hero 'crocodile Gena'.
It is considered that not all memes appear spontaneously. There are special groups of people who work on their creation and popularization using technological tools of impacting mass consciousness. Pragmatic settings of these type of memes are realized through background knowledge of the addressee Synthetic codes become effective weapons of forming a 'required' worldview in the mass addressee. 
We can definitely notice:  these settings are as often than not realized either through phonic or orthographic outrage. An example is a meme of a young woman, caught in front of a fridge, shelves of which are full of food. The girl is looking around sneakily and is already holding a plate with cake on it. Russian Text-slogan of this meme says: «Ты пожиреешь об этом» /you will fatten of it’ (overlaying semantic fields «жалеть»/ pitting → «жиреть» /fattening up').
We can also notice typically game with words in this example: two pontifex, Benedict XVI (German) and Francis (Argentina), on the picture. English Text-slogan is “May the best prayer win!” (overlaying semantic fields “player” → “prayer”). The mem was very popular before the meeting of German and Argentina teams at FIFA world Cup.
Breaking the norm is not only a manifestation of breaking free from the chains of grammar. It can be an effort of thought, mastery that enables to successfully improvise based on linguistic material.
According to M. Bakhtin, all sorts of statements gain their full meaning in context, in concrete time and in a concrete place. For internet-memes their place is the web, time is current and context a precise event that the user is responding to. If the context is instable then the meaning content of the meme as a communicative unit of  multimodal discourse is instable as well. Theatrical elements are a reaction of contemporary consiousness to emotional tensity. It can be assumed that the synthetic code is used in order to avoid mutual internal logical impasses in the process of decoding the message.


  1. Baheri T. Defense of Internet Linguistics. http://the-toast.net/2013/11/20/yes-you-can-even/view-all/
  2. Bakhtin M. Problem of speech genres.  Collected works. V.5., Мoscow., 1996.
  3. Сheryl L. Coyle, Heather Vaughn. Social networking: Communication revolution or evolution? // Bell labs technical Journal. Vol.13, 2008.
  4. Cybrick A. Cognitive modeling in linguistics. Works of the X International conference. Kazan., 2008.
  5. Vardzelashvil J. Internet memes: semantic-pragmatic and ethno-cultural characteristics of conceptual structures. Works of the I International Virtual Forum in Japan, Kyoto, 2014.
  6. Michal. V. 5 Ways Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet  are Destroying the English Language: http://www.webshoo.com/5-ways-facebook-twitter-and-the-internet-are-destroying-the-english-language/




© J. Vardzelashvili, 2016