Laughing Out Loud

I’ve been trying to curb a habit recently. A ‘lol’ habit.

I was a teenager at the peak of MSN as a social platform. Living out in the middle of nowhere as I did, it was my main way of communicating with my friends. I had all the emoticons programmed to combinations of characters – including an animated bat that played the Imperial March theme from Star Wars, and the infamous (at the time) ‘fatty on a trampoline’ – and I fussed over my screen picture and my screen name. And what songs it was acceptable to have playing on your ‘listening to’ line.

A big facet of MSN communication was the word ‘lol’. It was a substitute for so many things, and a versatile little word. In one sentence, ‘lol’ could mean its intended meaning – laugh out loud. In the next, it could be indication of acknowledgement of whatever had been said before, while also indicating that you didn’t really have any response.

‘lol’ was used to soften words that could be taken out of context – a reassuring wink and smile, a substitute for the body language that couldn’t exist over an instant messenger. It was used sometimes like a full stop. Because punctuation wasn’t for cool kids.

It’s a word that comes out of my fingers easier than I would like. I never say it – thank god – but when I’m texting I’m quick to tap it out. It’s almost reflexive, an impulse I can’t quite shake.

This overuse has been pointed out to me by people too old or too young to understand the multitude of uses for that single syllable and how important it was to MSN culture. A three letter word with more applications than that four letter word that can also be used in a variety of circumstances. But they’re right, of course. It’s lazy, and unnecessary. So this is my final tribute to ‘lol’. From now on I’m going to be using it a lot less often.

It’s a little like saying a final goodbye to an old friend.


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