Dictionary.com Chooses ‘Exposure’ as the 2014 Word of the Year

Every year, there are events that define the public’s thinking. Trying to encapsulate a year within a single paragraph or phrase is difficult. This year, Dictionary.com chose ‘exposure’ as their word of the year -- very fitting given events like Ferguson, the Ebola outbreak, data leaks, and the increased usage of anonymous apps this year.

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Every year, there are events that define the public’s thinking. Trying to encapsulate a year within a single paragraph or phrase is difficult. This year, Dictionary.com chose ‘exposure’ as their word of the year — very fitting given events like Ferguson, the Ebola outbreak, data leaks, and the increased usage of anonymous apps this year.

“Exposure” is the perfect word to encapsulate what happened this year as “Vulnerability and visibility were at the core of the year’s most notable headlines.” Social media brought mass attention to the Ebola crisis in West Africa, and it also amplified the messages from traditional media outlets. This exposure brought social media charity events, but it’s easy to say that the wailing about Ebola in the US was a little overblown.

Another definition of exposure — “an act or instance of bringing to light, revealing, or unmasking crime, misconduct, or evil” — applied perfectly to the events that occurred in Ferguson. Without social media the shooting of Michael Brown, and subsequent protests may not have become widely known.

Social media also ignited a discussion across the world about police brutality, and it even drove Anonymous to hack KKK social media accounts to expose the identities of klansmen.

Data exposure was another dominant trend this year. While the conversation about encryption and privacy was elevated, there’s still a long way to go in the search for security. Interestingly, many users have decided to shield themselves from data tracking by choosing to expose themselves more selectively through the use of anonymous apps and services.

Anonymous Tor based routers received a lot of publicity in the latter part of the year, perhaps because of the snake-oil nature of some claims made on Kickstarter. Other users decided to adopt anonymous apps like Secret, Whisper, and Yik Yak to selectively expose their thoughts and data. However it turns out that those services may not limit exposure at all.