To LOL, or not LOL? That is the question

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By MARTHA IRVINE
The Associated Press
Sunday, March 6, 2011; 1:16 PM

CHICAGO -- There was a time when LOL - "laughing out loud" - was so simple.

If I thought something in a casual online conversation was funny, I typed it. If I wanted to let someone know I was kidding in an e-mail or an instant message, same.

I might've even felt a little cool, using inside lingo that, at one time, was exclusive to the online world. (You know I'm not the only one who thought so.)

Today, though, I'm sensing a shift, even in my own thoughts about LOL. Certainly, it's as ubiquitous as ever. Just search for it on Twitter or Facebook to see how often people use it. Not exactly deep and meaningful stuff, mind you, but there sure is a lot of it.

Perhaps that's why, at least in some circles, LOL has lost its cachet. And at its worst, it's making people a little cranky.

It's overused and meaningless, they say. It "epitomizes lazy, and makes people a liar" says Seth Ginsburg, a 29-year-old New Yorker. "Are they really laughing out loud?"

Comedian Demetri Martin has joked that he uses "LTMQ - laughing to myself quietly."

"It's more honest," he says.

I laugh every time I hear that joke - out loud, no less - because I too have this internal debate: I tell myself that I'll only type LOL if I'm really "LOL-ing."

But I fail, regularly. It's just too easy to type (two keys, one finger or a thumb, if it's a cell phone), too convenient a response.

Sure, there are LOL haters out there, seemingly more all the time. But for better or worse, this modern-day acronym has become ingrained in our lexicon and, for some, has evolved in meaning.

"It's brevity at its finest, and it gets a point across," says 25-year-old Arzi Rachman, another New Yorker.


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