The Use of “Lol”

I’ve been thinking heavily about social media lately and have found the various uses of “lol” to be quite interesting. “Lol,” of course, traditionally means laughing out loud. Now, in no way am I trying to present myself as an expert on social media and with using it. After all, I only have 131,000 readers of my blog, only over 500 Facebook friends, and only over 700 Twitter followers. From this audience, however, I have been able to discover some interesting ways in which “lol” is being used. When I’m chatting with many people via instant messaging, text messaging, and other mediums, I’ve found that “lol” is often used when folks don’t have anything to say and the use of “lol” keeps the conversation moving along. “Lol” gives people an opportunity to think about something to say. I just wonder if the frequent use of “lol” gives poor communicators an easy way out of working to ameliorate their communication skills.

I have also found that “lol” can really articulate that one is a person who laughs all the time. I have to admit that I use “lol” often because I’m one who laughs quite often. It’s certainly not because I have difficulty communicating. After all, my undergraduate and graduate training is in English and I teach English at the university level.

“Lol,” unfortunately, has been and is employed many times to say disrespectful, inappropriate, racist, sexist, mean-spirited, and/or threatening things to people. I want you to know that just because you put “lol” somewhere in a sentence where you have communicated something horrible does not make it all better. You are not going to be successful in saying something hateful with an “lol” and not expect people to see right through how deceptive you are being with your use of “lol.”

I want us to begin to think about the ways in which we use “lol” and the ways in which others use it. I certainly want you to start to expose those people who use “lol” to try to mask their inappropriate or hateful comments. Hopefully, this piece will cause you to focus on the use of “lol” in a deeper way than you have previously thought about it. Although I have not really said anything new or profound in this piece, what I hope that it will do is cause us to bring to the surface some interesting revelations about the use of “lol.” I want us to consider how some people are really changing the meaning of “lol” to mean all kinds of things that are not positive.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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12 comments

  1. Define interesting…

    I wonder too when I see people type that. I know personally, I type it when I actually laugh. I might not be rolling on the floor but I am laughing. I laugh a lot. Doesn’t really take much to make me laugh. I laugh so much I get tired of people asking me what am I laughing at. Mind your business!

    1. Lmbo! Yes, I’m still waiting for that definition of “interesting,” but someone still does not want to offer it. I simply get “interesting means interesting.” Yeah, I’m always laughing too. I am very concerned, however, about this use of “lol” to try to cover up mean-spirited comments. I think it’s important for us to think seriously about how we communicate through social media because with so many people using social media the language of social media will be becoming increasingly significant.

  2. Personally speaking, when I use the term “LoL” I’m usually just smiling. When I use “LMAO” I’m laughing out loud but not literally ‘my -ss off’; BUT if I use “DEAD”, then this usually indicates that I am literally “laughing my -ss off”.

    I agree with the point you made earlier about “lol” being used as a “conversation filler” I guess we could call it. Lately, I’ve found myself using smiley faces more than ever. They seem to cheer me up even when there’s no message behind it. I guess it’s all in how you look at it.

    Interesting post man. Great writing.

    1. @G. Rich: I appreciate you very for explaining why you use the terms the way that you do because it’s vital to really beginning to understand how the language of social media is already starting to mutate and become more complex. My early thoughts about the language of social media is that we are starting to see us use words out of their traditional meanings, which is important to understand. Through social media, people are using words to make meanings that are their own, which shows us the power of the language of social media. I think that social media offers us an opportunity to be more revolutionary with our use of language, but I’m going to study people’s use of language more through social media before I go too far with my argument about the revolutionary potential of the language of social media.

      Thank you for your too kind words! I appreciate you very much for stopping by, reading, and commenting.

  3. I like you use LOL a lot because I really do laugh and make jokes a lot. But, I am starting to see more people like you said use it as a diss more than anything.

    For instance “Yo, I really aint feeling you no more…lol”

    It kinda keeps the person off balance to understand if its a slight or not. It also seems to take the sting out of something you want to say to someone. Kind of a cowards way of conveying thoughts…

  4. Sometimes I think folks use “LOL” as a place holder…like they don’t know how to end a thought…LOL. *Snicker* Or perhaps because they find they say something not so popular and use it as a scapegoat. I’m with many of the people who posted as to why they use the term. I’m a fool. I laugh at myself just because. Laughter is food for the soul…especially as a PhD student.

    1. I very much agree with you that “lol” is employed as a scapegoat. Yes, we have got to laugh at ourselves as PhD students or we will go crazy! Lol (and I’m actually laughing out loud)! Lol! I’m so crazy that I laugh all of the time, so when I use “lol” one can believe that I’m actually laughing. Thanks for stopping by, reading, and commenting, Regina!

  5. I like this post. Often when I see “LOL” used or a “(-:” within or at the end of a statement, I’ll take for face value. I do, however, recognize when individuals use it in a nice/nasty way to convey a form of sarcasm. You DO know that I’m a bit off my rocker and unorthodox and use LOL often because I’m freaking hilarious and I love to laugh. And now a song…LOL! *wink*

    1. LMBO! Only you, Pampered Sweet Tooth! I like how you say that “lol” is used as a form of sarcasm. I’ve got a good list from the responses so far about how “lol” is used and how it has many new meanings created by various people. Thanks for reading and your response.

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