The impact of social media on British Sign Language

We all recognise the benefits of social media; the ability to communicate with anyone, at any time, wherever in the world they are located. The ability to communicate in different languages is also becoming more advanced, and this is becoming more apparent and advantageous for BSL users.

Since 2003, BSL has been recognised as a language in its own right

The D/deaf and users of British Sign Language (BSL) have a very strong culture which includes attitudes, behaviours, history and norms. Since 2003, BSL has been recognised as a language in its own right and is often, the preferred language of D/deaf people in the UK. The D/deaf do not consider themselves to be disabled, just different from those who can hear.

British Sign Language on Social Media

Communities are very important to the D/deaf, and each one is a close knit cultural group sharing sign language and a common legacy. Clubs have long since been a cornerstone of these communities, as the D/deaf cannot just pick up a phone and have a conversation with someone. Clubs will always remain important; however social media has begun to play a significant role in the lives of the D/deaf and users of BSL.

For many BSL users, English is not their first language

One advantage is that groups are very easy to set up, and it has become a platform to promote activities such as information and learning. Social media also has the ability to connect both local and national groups, and when sites such as Facebook first became popular, it allowed for BSL users to be able to communicate instantly with hearing friends, family and groups online.

There are a large range of D/deaf groups and the Deaf Opinions Group is a particularly popular group, and the brain child of Angel Walford. Angel is a freelance support worker, who set up the group on Facebook to help people obtain easy access to information people often asked her about. It’s this type of group that provides the function of a D/deaf club on a very large scale.

The only snag with social media is that users of BSL have experienced difficulties in fully engaging, due to the fact that English is not their first language. Status updates are written in English text and BSL has its own grammatical structure. For example:


My name is Rose.

What is your name?


Me. Rose

Name, you what?

The use of video

This has led to BSL users posting their updates in the form of video. Online activity means that deaf organisations such as the British Deaf Association (BDA) have been required to adapt. David Buxton who is the Director of Campaigns and Communications said “The BDA produces a large amount of video in BSL for posting on Facebook. This means D/deaf people do not have to rely on written statements or stories which they sometimes find difficult to follow.”

One concern is that Facebook’s popularity amongst the D/deaf and BSL users could lead to more D/deaf clubs within the community closing, and fewer opportunities for people to physically meet and sign with each other face-to-face. However, most D/deaf people feel the benefits outweigh the negatives. David Buxton said “Facebook gives D/deaf people the confidence to come out and say things that they never would have said before, because they didn’t have the platform to say it on. Confidence comes from being able to express your own thoughts in your own language – BSL.”

If you require more information on BSL, please fill in the form below. Or alternatively, if you are interested in providing BSL services, please follow the link here.

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