The news that ‘lol’ (laugh out loud) has had its day, has prompted me to explore the evolution of social media language here on the Htet Tayza blog today. It’s amazing to see how technology is changing the way we communicate with each so unbelievably rapidly.
The invention of the cell phone text message was a game changer. It allowed people to send short instantaneous messages with the touch of a few buttons. However phones, especially early 2000s phones, had small screens. This caused societies in the Western world to create abbreviations, most notably ‘lol,’ which means ‘laugh out loud,’ in order to make communicating by text expedient.
This gave birth to a new language called ‘text speak.’ As texting became the most prevalent form of communication among young people, it became statistically more popular than talking face-to-face by 2012, according to the Telegraph. When people are saying lol instead of texting it, you know it’s entered the mainstream.
End of lol
Phone technology has rapidly advanced in the last decade. The first cell phones with texting capabilities have long been supplanted in people’s minds, by the more technologically advanced ‘smartphone.’ This advancement of phone technology gives users the ability to log onto their social media accounts, and a new language of sorts has grown up to cater to this crowd; the emoji.
The Guardian reported that a US study has found that emojis are now more popular than text speak among social media users. The research discovered that the most popular form of ‘e-laughter’ (expressing laughter online) isn’t ‘lol,’ (cited by 1.9% of respondents) it’s ‘haha’ (cited by 51.4%). Meanwhile, 33.7% of those asked admitted that they use emojis to express laughter online.
The study broke down the popularity of various forms of e-laughter by age group. It discovered that emojis are used more by young people in the 18-23 age range. In contrast, ‘lol’ was more popular among older Facebook users. Furthermore, the research found that the popularity of various forms of e-laughter varied according to location; people in Seattle favoured haha, whilst Chicago residents preferred to use emojis.
With this study, we see the direct effect that technology has on communication. Text speak became popular in the 2000s because the limitations of early cell phones demanded that we create a form of communication that fit within the strict parameters of texting. We are no longer restricted by the limitations of early cell phones, and this has allowed us to develop a form of communication which is more tailored to the capabilities of more evolved devices.