Formality in the UCLA Community: Communication and Self-Expression in the Digital Age

Online communication has undoubtedly brought on more opportunities for misunderstanding. However, the use of linguistic elements such as internet slang and emojis represent the myriad ways that humans expand our linguistic toolbox. Through our research, collected through online surveys and interviews with several members of the UCLA community, we found that formality is shaped by many complex factors, including similarity or difference in age, gender, and power dynamics between interlocutors. The prevalence of concepts such as mirroring suggests that maintaining appropriate levels of formality in these evolving communication mediums is an intuitive process which calls upon participants to be more attentive and creative communicators. Additionally, we found that these processes reveal that, although traditional notions of formality and politeness continue to shape our ways of interacting, the very definitions of these concepts are ever-changing.

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