As a one-time French speaker, I thought this article was pretty interesting. It says that thanks to the informal communication on Twitter and other social media, the use of “tu” instead of “vous” may slowly take over in French society.
In French (like in Spanish and Italian), there are two ways to say “you”: there’s “tu” for informal use, like friends and family; and then there’s “vous” for formal situations or someone deserving of respect. I remember when I did a high school exchange and lived with a family in Paris, I was never sure which one to use with my host mother. (It ended up being “tu”.)
On social media like Twitter and Facebook, “tu” is the go-to form. Since communication online is generally informal and friendly, that has become the norm.
Not surprisingly, some older French people aren’t happy with this. One guy, Laurent Joffrin, director of a French news magazine, got upset last year when one of his Twitter followers addressed him with “tu”. In his mind, “tu” is an insult between strangers, something people yell at each other when they have road rage. But in today’s online world, it’s just the way people talk to each other. Twitter is by nature informal, and that’s just the way it is.
As the article says, Spain and Italy have the same thing going on (the informal “tu” taking over the formal "usted" or "Lei" through social media). Though, it sounds like there is less resistance to the shift in those countries. I think France, in general, tends to be more protective of its traditions and culture.
In any event, I always think it’s interesting to see how language and culture interplay. And in this case, it’s interesting to see how the culture of social media affects the language, and then back again to affect the culture. We’ll see how it all plays out in the coming years and decades. Someday, “vous” may become a thing of the past.