Laughing on the Inside



Jaime Coyne

I’m sick of laughing out loud. Mostly because the chances that I’m actually laughing out loud when I type “lol” are slim. And the likelihood that I will laugh out loud, reflect on this, and then type “lol” as a result is even less. I remember when “lol” still felt like a novelty to me. You know, in middle school. When I would count how many “buddies” I had on my AOL Instant Messenger Buddylist and develop a complex every time I found out someone had five more than me.

In those days, “lmao” [laughing my a** off] was more common (at least in my circles) than “lolololololol” [basically nonsensical] for something really funny, and “lmfao” [laughing my f***ing a** off] was pretty badass. This was before “rofl” [rolling on the floor laughing, also “rotfl”] became an antique, and when “roflmao” [rolling on the floor laughing my a** off] was ingenious.

But back then, acronyms knew their place. It was understood that all such expressions of laughter (and other similar things) were strictly for the online world, that it was inappropriate to write them in a paper or say them in front of adults.

Of course, I’ve always thought it sounded idiotic to say AIM acronyms out loud, but plenty of people seem to disagree with me there. I was shocked when, junior year of high school, my English teacher handed me back a personal essay with “lol!” scribbled in the column. Granted, that teacher was a pretty unique character with sarcasm oozing out of his every pore (my hero), but I felt like he’d shaken my world a little. Teachers just don’t do that… right?

But apparently sometimes they do. And, according to a cell phone commercial, kids a few grades younger than me speak acronym fluently. I have too much respect for the English language – and too high hopes that children will continue to learn it in its actual form – to not be considerably saddened by that.

Don’t get me wrong, I use “lol” frequently in online conversations. But I’m increasingly judging myself for it. Most of the time, it’s a space filler. It feels like it’s your turn to talk, and you have nothing to say – potentially because you aren’t really talking about anything in the first place – so you just say “lol,” because it seems like more of a response than “yeah.” But if you stop and think about it, that’s pretty ridiculous.

How often, in actual face-to-face conversations, do you react to a lull by bursting into a syllable or two of laughter? I’m betting that the person you were talking to would prefer awkward silence to their sudden new fear that they’re talking to a crazy person.

It would be nice if real life “this is boring” gestures could be incorporated into online conversations. The sound of a drawn-out yawn. The polite smile and nod. The less subtle let’s-wrap-this-the-f***-up circular finger motion. While I’m waiting for someone with more impressive computer skills to make that happen, I guess I’ll just have to try and come up with more accurate responses than lol-ing. Hell, maybe I’ll even try to have more interesting conversations. Lol.