Dictionary.com chooses ‘exposure’ to define 2014

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With the end of the year approaching rather quickly, the usual time of reflection over the past year begins. In music, YouTube mashups of the most popular hits. In photography, “#ThrowbackThursday” Instagram posts. And in language? Word master Dictionary.com has continued their tradition of announcing a distinctive “Word of the Year.” For 2014, they’ve settled for no less than the polysemous word “exposure.”

Editors and lexicographers at the linguistic laboratory used Google Trends to find what caught the public’s eye, according to TIME. Filtering from “A-to-Z” through news headlines since September, the word stuck out the most as it described events from the Ebola epidemic to the various data hacks to the Ferguson situation.

“This year was full of important stories and really somber events. The stakes felt really high, and we wanted to reflect that in our selection,” said Senior Editor Renae Hurlbutt in an interview with TIME.

The many meanings of “exposure” (the condition of being vulnerable to harm; the act of “bringing to public attention”, especially something heinous; or the release of something private) seemed to have encompassed all the sporadic stories of this year.

“The things that happened in 2014 and the multiple meanings behind exposure just were so in sync,” said CEO Michele Turner.

And speaking of “in sync”, youth from both groups of 12-17 and 18-29 are the dominating demographic in Internet usage. According to The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project surveys, 95% of young people are “now online”. And naturally, 81% of teen Internet users engage in some form of social media. With all the exposure going on in the media nowadays, teenagers may see and reshape concepts into personal aspects.

“Adolescents expose themselves in order to provide a concrete way which they can examine themselves later to find who they are. Exposure then becomes reflection,” said Moorea Coker, head of Crosby High School’s Pop Culture committee. (Pop Culture is a conference designed to fuel teenagers to investigate current pop-cultural affairs.)

Not just limited to teenagers, social media been an outlet for mass exposure for the general public as well. “Live-tweets”, or comments on an event while it is occurring, have increased in fashion amazingly, allowing audiences to interpret ongoing events for themselves. Raw footage, such as in Vines, counteracts the possible bias news, giving the individual great liberty.

“The world is evolving,” said sophomore Kaitlyn Giles. “A lot of wild things have risen up in the past months and we should be more aware of the effects of exposing.”

Transitioning from last year’s word of the year — “privacy” — to “exposure” may come across as quite a gargantuan leap. These almost polar concepts demonstrate the paradox of the human character.

“We kind of expose ourselves when we post things on Twitter,” said sophomore Tre Alfred. “We so want our privacy, but then we post things we don’t want to be exposed.”

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Dictionary.com chooses ‘exposure’ to define 2014