When the Internet first became a “thing” it was all about the chat room for those of us going through or about to go through puberty. The chat room and the personalized Geocities website featuring a dancing cartoon devil, of course.
Like most people my age at the time, I saw my opportunity and immediately started chatting with anonymous, faceless strangers in chat rooms, sometimes for hours on end. It still wasn’t completely weird and creepy then. One thing that I distinctly remember was the advent of Internet acronyms, most notably, “LOL.”
Now, I’m not going to lie. I spent a good part of my youth thinking that “LOL” meant to loll: “recline or lean in a relaxed, lazy, or indolent manner; lounge.” Yeah, so maybe 12 year-old-me mistakenly thought the Internet to be decidedly more highbrow than it actually is. And yeah, 12-year-old me imagined other Internet users just sort of rolling about feeling very chilled all the time, maybe even basking on sun loungers and sipping drinks with tiny colored umbrellas in them. As a result, 12-year-old me had absolutely no idea when to use LOL, especially as I was sans tiny umbrella pretty much all the time.
Fast forward to the now and I still don’t know when the hell to throw down a LOL. I mean, when was the last time you typed “LOL” and were actually, physically laughing out loud? It’s rare that one laughs out loud during a typed conversation, but it seems that LOL is thrown around quite gratuitously. As a result, LOL no longer means anything, really. I keep thinking that maybe “LOL” is one of those things like “love” that we should treat as sacred, and only say when we really, truly mean it.
On the rare occasion that I actually do laugh out loud during a typed Internet conversation, I have, in the past, resorted to typing the acronym in full i.e. “that made me laugh out loud!” This is so that the recipient is confident in their awareness that I was indeed laughing out loud at their humorous statement. Because all “LOL” really represents is either a) an intention to laugh out loud but not necessarily completing the act or b) a moment in which you are lost for anything else to say.
I have, as such, developed a code. Capitalized “LOL” means I am actually laughing out loud — as you can imagine, this is used sparingly. Lower case “lol” means that the joke was funny, I am smiling, and may have laughed if the joke was told to me in the spoken word but have failed to do so upon reading the typed joke, despite being amused. And finally, “hahaha” means that I am silently convulsing or releasing a silent but emphatic line of breathy huffs in quick succession — I am somewhere between smiling and laughing out loud.
“LOL,” essentially (as akin to “love”), has become somewhat of a filler. It’s what we say when we’ve nothing else to say. Sure, we might be mildly amused by the conversation, but MA isn’t an Internet acronym (yet). So we LOL. We LOL and we LOL and we render the acronym completely meaningless within any context. WHAT ARE WE COMING TO WHEN NOT EVEN OUR INTERNET ACRONYMS MEAN ANYTHING? NEXT THING YOU KNOW RYAN GOSLING WILL BE IRRELEVANT AND THEN WE’LL BE REALLY SORRY. It’s time to make some serious changes to our Internet language and favor meaning above intent, before we devolve to become Generation: [shoulder shrug] Meh.