LOL is one of the most popular slang on the Internet. Yet even if it has a straightforward meaning, LOL is used in a lot of contexts. It can show a happy-go-lucky demeanor, or it can be used as an insult.
The variety of meanings behind a simple LOL makes it so difficult to answer.
An appropriate response to LOL depends mostly on context and the previous history of their messages. If the person you are writing to frequently uses LOL, you do not need to respond further. If this is not the case, you can ask if everything is okay.
Let’s discuss why people use the term LOL and what it truly means. We’ll also go over different comebacks for off-hand replies like these.
The Meaning of “LOL”
LOL is an acronym for “laugh out loud“. The creator, Wayne Pearson, coined the term in the 1980s and the phrase became popular in texting culture since it’s a swift way to convey an emotion. LOL’s popularity landed it a place in the Oxford Dictionary in 2011.
While the use of LOL was genuine back in the days, today, the term has gone out of style. Facebook research shows that only 1.9% of its American users use the term LOL . Nowadays, people prefer to express their joy in other ways like emojis.
It’s not saying that LOL is completely dead. You’ll still find this term being thrown around in Internet discourse every day. Although, the meaning is no longer what you think it means.
Why People Say “LOL”
In its early stages, the Internet wasn’t a crowded barrage of memes, drama, and sarcasm. LOL was originally an unironic phrase used by Internet denizens. It was a genuine reaction by people, and it was just part of the everyday lingo on the Internet.
But even in the beginning, LOL never truly reflected a person’s emotion. There is always that joke where people type LOL but have a face as straight as a ruler. It is a funny thought, but when was the last time you saw someone type LOL while laughing out loud?
As time pass and generations shift, the term lost its meaning. Today, LOL does not mean laughing out loud anymore. It fell out of fashion to use LOL in most conversations. Emojis are more popular, so why text when you can use them instead?
With that said, some people still choose to add LOL into their sentences. Some say it’s to appear less serious, while others say it’s to seem light-hearted and fun.
LOL is a very casual expression. Adding them in a sentence or two can make you appear chill and easy-going.
However, some will use LOL when debating as well. You’ll see people saying LOL at the end of an opinion (and very likely an unpopular one too.) It’s like sprinkling salt in a wound. Suddenly, the tone shifts into something patronizing. And if they are called out, they can easily say that since they used LOL, everything they said earlier was just a joke.
The point is that nobody who uses LOL is truly laughing behind the scenes. Instead, it’s often used as an aloof addition to any response. So, should we dismiss every single time the phrase LOL is used?
Why Context Matters
Words have meanings, and those meanings come from the given context. Like any other word or phrase, typing LOL can mean plenty of things. There are some people out there who use the phrase sincerely.
Meanwhile, others use it as a way to show callousness. So how do you spot the difference?
Consider Who You are Talking To
Take a look at the person you are talking to. Are they a close friend, a nice co-worker, or a beloved family member? If it’s someone you know personally, you’re more likely to know what makes them tick.
If you see them use LOL all the time, then it’s just part of their normal typing pattern.
Of course, typing style changes. Sometimes, your friend might suddenly swap from typing “hahaha” to “lol.” In this case, you might want to check on what you two have been talking about.
Look Back at Your Previous Conversations
While it’s nice to know someone’s typing style from the back of your hand, that’s only a part of the big picture. You also want to know why the sudden LOL-bomb came.
Every part of your conversation matters greatly when trying to decipher a person’s emotions. Did you tell your friend a joke? Or did the discussion turn into something awkward? Read through your response and judge the way you two have been conversing.
Study How the Phrase is Written
Finally, consider how that person wrote LOL. The way they write can heavily impact the tone of their message.
A single “lol” with all lowercase may or may not mean anything.
But when you combine that with a period, then you know something is wrong. You also don’t see people typing LOL with all caps that often. So if you do run into someone typing like that, chances are they might genuinely mean it.
Combining these three factors can give you a clearer picture of whom you are dealing with. For something as simple as a 3-letter acronym, you’ll realize just how complex its meaning can be.
How to Response to “LOL”
You got that text, and you are dying to respond to it. You know the context after reading and re-reading previous replies. But how do you answer something as benign yet infuriating as LOL?
We have 5 suggestions on how you can respond to that person. While we don’t condone anyone being mean to others, you sometimes need to play by their games and put them in their place.
1. Write back LOL
If the back and forth is a funny one, then any LOL means good spirit. Send a LOL back to show that you do find something hilarious.
If LOL is not your cup of tea, a good “hahaha” can do.
2. Send an Emoji
Alternatively, skip typing and sprinkle some Emoji into the chat. Emojis are fun and quirky when used sparingly. And who can resist their adorable designs?
Emojis are a great way to add personality to plain boring text on your screen.
3. Change the Subject
But what if this time, the talk turned sour. Maybe they took a long time to reply, only to say “lol.” Now what?
Take the hint and change the subject. Maybe the conversation turned awkward, offensive, or boring. Some people may not want to say it out loud, so they drop hints that they feel uncomfortable.
If you can feel it too, swiftly look for something else to talk about.
Here are some examples of how to stir away from the uncomfortable silence:
“Anyways, how is your work these days?”
“You know, I think we should drop this and talk about something else.”
“I think I have something else in mind. Want to hear about it?”
4. End the Conversation
Many can sense when a situation becomes too tense. If your replies are turning hostile, you can end the conversation right there. You are not bound to talk to anybody.
You can politely but firmly stop the flow of words and leave. Not only will you avoid arguments, but you can relax and release some stress.
Here are some idea phrases on how to end a toxic convo:
“I’m sorry, but I need to cut this chat short. Thanks for your time.”
“I think things are going too far for my comfort. I’ll just see you next time.”
“Hey, I am going to be busy. See you later.”
Some people are just not worth your time. If you feel like your discussion is going nowhere, end it right there. No reply, no reaction. Just exit the page and move on.
It will lessen the chance of any conflict with the person you were engaging with.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.