Shorthand can be a great tool for articulating feelings in the cold, sterile world of cyberspace.
If the text recipient cannot see the snarky expression on your face when they read what you’ve typed, they could take your words out of context. Therefore, using popular acronyms and cutesy smiley faces is critical to minimizing miscommunication.
However, it is best to know what the acronym means before regurgitating it all over your screen. If you are too embarrassed to ask, then by all means type the shorthand into your favorite search engine and look it up.
LOL, for example, is short for "laugh out loud." LOL is best used when an audible sound of jovialness spills out of your face immediately after writing or reading a text or social media post. We’ve all done it. We’ve all read a silly meme while sitting on the couch avoiding eye contact with other family members and giggled a little. Such an occasion calls for an LOL response.
Note, in my references to LOL, all the letters are capitalized. Some people are perfectly fine with texting lol. I realize it takes an extra step to use uppercase letters. And, when motivated to immediately respond because of the giggle, it might be too time consuming for the humored one to hit the shift key with a thumb. So, while it took me some time to accept the lowercase version, I am now at peace with reading lol.
What I am not at peace with is the use of lol as punctuation. Unless you are literally laughing between every line you are texting, you do not need to end every phrase or complete sentence with lol. I know people who do this: going to store lol need anything lol cu later lol.
At the very least, LOL should be used either in response to something funny or after something humorous is relayed. If something is so hilarious it evokes a state of prolonged audible laughter, you might have reached the level of rolling on the floor laughing. To relay this hysterical reaction, you would text ROTFL.
While you do not have to actually be on the floor rolling around in a fit of hysterics, ROTFL is generally considered appropriate if you experienced over thirty seconds of continuous, spontaneous laughter. ROTFL might also be okay if you deem what you’ve read or seen so hilarious you are compelled to immediately share it with 572 of your closest friends.
Unfortunately, some people are overusing ROTFL the way others use LOL as an exclamation point or period. While the meme about mommy’s juice box having the words Cabernet Sauvignon written across it can be amusing, it does not warrant an ROTFL. The Cabernet Sauvignon juice box is at best an LOL-level joke.
I can see how, with both an excellent illustration depicting a close friend in a super-mommy epic fail situation as well as perfect situational timing, a Cabernet Sauvignon juice box meme could elicit an ROTFL. However, the 1680s-era woman wearing a feathered hat and holding up a glass illustrated and captioned in black ink on a mint green background lacks ROTFL worthiness.
Now, there are times when a person might laugh so hard he or she falls off the couch. If that person then lifts up his or her non-fall-breaking arm to display the smartphone screen to anyone in the room who will look away from his or her own screen, ROTFL would be an understatement. What we have in this situation is an instance of ROTFLMAO.
When a person laughs hardily enough to cause streaming tears, side stitches, and breathlessness, the person might suggest to the world he or she is "rolling on the floor laughing my aardvark off." Unfortunately, ROTFLMAO is as misused as all other acronymic expressions of laughter. If people were in fact ROTFLMAO as much as they claimed, we would see a lot less aardvark in the streets.
The cold, hard reality is people are not ROTFLMAO. Rather, they are sitting on their aardvarks, giggling at silly memes, smiling at cute texts, and overstating their level of jocularity.
It is good to laugh out loud. We should all be regularly rolling on the floor laughing. Every now and again, it would be therapeutic to roll on the floor and laugh our aardvarks off. Laughter has been long documented as the best medicine. But, as with any form of medicinal therapy, you have to use expressions of laughter appropriately.
An LOL at the end of a boring statement will serve only to desensitize you to authentic humor. We do not want humor to be rendered ineffective like the antibiotics of our childhoods. Please, I beg of you, use LOL, ROTFL, and ROTFLMAO with care.
And, every now and again, let us all put down our screens, get off our aardvarks, and participate in real life, sidesplitting experiences. We can always post about them later with well-placed ROTFLs.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.