The internet is a wonderful creation, no doubt about it. We have sudden, near-limitless access to porn and no longer have to look humans in the eye when buying embarrassing products. And, in perhaps the most admirable accomplishment of all, it is single-handedly beating the old publishing industry to an unrecognizable pulp behind a dive bar. It’s got a pretty impressive resume. But sometimes, it must be noted, the internet gets drunk on its own power and ruins some of the very things it made great. And words, the quirky little terms the internet took under its wing and helped to grow, are now becoming grating, bastardized versions of their former selves. Perhaps we can still stop the bleeding for some of them, but for these five, it may just be too late.
1. Friend – What was a friend before the internet? Someone you saw? Someone you cared about, if even peripherally? Someone you had a shared history with? Someone who had some kind of bearing on your life? Because now it’s the particularly drunk girl you met at the bar whose profile picture is her in a bikini at some kind of dance club…clearly she’s no stranger to this sort of thing. Who are these people? Should we really be calling them “friends”? Shouldn’t we find a new, more accurate term for these people, instead of co-opting a word that used to be an important signifier of emotional connection? The women I will ask to be my bridesmaids one day, those are my friends. The guy whose face I occasionally see on my news feed who elicits a slight, confused, “Who is Dude McBrostein over here? I don’t that baseball cap is backwards enough…ugh.” is not a friend. He is a person on my computer screen. So, instead of friend, I recommend we call them what they are, People Outside Our Periphery–or POOPs. I have over 400 POOPs on my Facebook! Look at how important and faux well-liked I am!
2. Epic – This word used to mean something. It was reserved for poems that went on for several months and were read by a flamboyantly dressed minion who would be decapitated if he misread a line or mispronounced Hroðgar. It was used for battles that occurred in the kind of wars where people just ran at each other and slashed willy-nilly with their homemade cutlery, unsure of which side they were stabbing or which noble exactly they were dying for. It referred to kings who conquered entire continents, all while standing a stout-at-best 4’11 and going through wives like toilet paper, using slaves for their actual toilet paper. It was a heady, strong word that brought to mind the clinking of mead-filled mugs and roast animals being delivered to a table by a buxom milk-maid type who is only too happy to go for a robust little roll in the hay after dinner–if you don’t mind a little syphilis, of course. Now it means a picture of a cat with a particularly soft ball of yarn.
3. Like – I remember liking things when I was young. I liked ice cream, I liked pink inflatable chairs I bought at Limited Too, I liked the Spice Girls. They were things from which I genuinely derived pleasure, things that brought a smile to my face when I experienced them. Liking something was about as straightforward a concept of happiness as I could think of when I was eight years old. The concept of using the same word to describe my feelings about bunnies as I would about my ironic support for a stupid POOP’s crazy religious status update would be unthinkable. How dare society sully the word I use to describe my relationship with French toast. But now, half of the things we “like” are either in irony or sarcasm that only we, the cackling “smart ones” of the internet are in on, or a feigned approval that is scarcely more than a verbalized “meh.” Oh, that person I don’t really care about just got into that program I’ve never heard of.I “like” that. No you don’t, you gangly sack of lies, you just feel obligated to acknowledge it through the ridiculous etiquette required between two people who don’t know each other who’ve decided to stay in contact.
4. LOL – Lol–the true Frankenstein baby of the internet. We created it, we rose it from the depths of internet inside joke obscurity into the universal proclamation of “I totally accept that you are trying to be funny, man” that it is today. And beyond just acknowledging the often-feeble attempts at humor that are made in internet chats–truly the lowest form of human communication, with the possible exception of yelling at each other in wifebeaters outside our trailers–they have also morphed into the go-to word to add to any statement or question whose implications you don’t really want to commit to. For example,
“I made a doll out of locks of your hair and belly button lint I found in your tee-shirts.”
Is so much more palatable with just a dash of non-commital “laughing.”
“I made a doll out of locks of your hair and belly button lint I found in your tee-shirts lol”
“The doomsday device will be ready this evening.”
“The doomsday device will be ready this evening lol”
The first sentence sounds like someone who should be put away in a hospital with soft walls, the second one sounds like he’s talking about some gravity bong he’s been working on all afternoon.
Toss out that punctuation and you have a perfectly-crafted creepy statement well-packaged in cool, uncaring wrapping paper. And let’s be honest, it’s been years since anyone who writes “lol” has actually been laughing at the time of writing it. Usually a real laugh is signified by a HAHAHAHAHA, or some actual description of much whatever you said made them giggle. In any case, the only “out loud” thing we’re really doing with LOL these days is lying.
5. Hipster – I know, I know. How could anyone destroy the word hipster? Does anyone actually know what a hipster really is? The internet feels free to thoughtlessly throw the Hipster accusation at anything that’s ever listened to Animal Collective or ridden a bike past the age of 12. And while it’s true that many hipsters do appreciate those things, they are certainly not the defining qualities of what makes a Hipster a Hipster. There should be a word reserved for that guy at the party who is constantly going on self-important rants about some obscure interest he’s cultivating in a conscious effort to be “interesting.” There should be a word reserved for when he wears an outfit that is both aesthetically unpleasing and made to look intentionally (and deceptively) cheap. There should be a word for his appreciation of things that only extend from a deep sense of irony and superiority, as well as the use of his privilege to turn unemployment into a series of charmingly quirky adventures he is only so happy to tell you about in excruciating detail.
There should be a word for every writer ever to appear on Thought Catalog except for me.
We need hipster. Don’t ruin it.