Musings

Code Switching

Week Eight Blog Post

Code switching is when one uses different language depending on their audience. Whether it be trying to imitate the people around them or simply using different language to meet the expectation of their audience, everyone code switches.

I act differently with my family than I do with my friends. I try to act in a mannerly fashion with my family, but when I am communicating with my friends, my manners sometimes go out the window. I treat my family with respect, but I view my friends as equals, and I treat them how they treat me. Everyone does this. Code switching shapes the conversations that we have. If we want to have a professional conversation about a project, we use the appropriate language. Likewise, if we want to have an informal, humorous conversation with friends, we use language that entails just that.

However, code switching doesn’t always have to be professional vs. informal conversations. Bilingual individuals code switch between languages. Depending on who they are addressing, they obviously have to use the language that their audience is familiar with.

Code switching happens on social media platforms, as well. Depending on which social media platform one is using, one chooses language differently. For example, Facebook allows a user to post and share with people they are friends with. Since everyone you are friends with can see what you post and share (unless you hide the post) it is important to put your best face forward. Additionally, people you are not friends with, such as potential employers, can get past the privacy settings on your profile and see your posts anyway. Because of this, since you are addressing a mass number of people anyway, it is a good idea to remain respectful and professional with Facebook posts. This is the same way with Twitter. One must also be particularly careful about what they post on a blog site such as WordPress. If posts are made public, they can be accessed by anyone. You get little privacy and little room to code switch. In order to remain reputable to your followers, you must always screen what you say and act in a consistently professional manner if you have a professional blog.

There is also room to act unprofessional on social media platforms. Snaps on Snapchat can be sent directly to an individual, so the language used may be informal when compared to a more public platform, such as Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress. You also get to choose who can see your pictures and how long they get to see them for. Since you can also see who screenshots what you snap, you have more control over how the pictures get handled once you take them and post them.

Though everyone tailors their language depending on their audience, this can sometimes prove to be problematic. If two opposing spheres collide, you may confuse your audiences. They may learn things about you that you didn’t want them knowing. For example, and I don’t mean to get political, but Donald Trump is receiving backlash for his “locker room talk.” Trump was recorded saying disrespectful things about women during a conversation that he thought was private. This has been brought to the public’s attention and is now sparking widespread outrage, which was not Trump’s intention. I know this is an extreme example, but it shows the dangers of code switching.

Though code switching can potentially be dangerous, I feel it is also necessary. Everyone has different social spheres for which they must tailor their language and actions accordingly.  If it weren’t for code switching, our work life and domestic spheres would become blurred, and that would be mundane. Treating friends professionally is no fun, and treating our coworkers and bosses informally may lead to consequences. Whether we realize it or not, we code switch every day.

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