Shutterstock/lauraluchi

Research by Facebook suggests “hehe,” “haha,” and emoji have killed the once popular shorthand.

“LOL” is so yesterday. Maybe we’re not buying that the person on the other end of the chat is actually laughing out loud, or perhaps those three little letters are just not expressive enough. A new Facebook report finds that only 1.9 percent of us are LOL-ers. And the majority of those people are among an older group of Facebook users.

What’s killing “LOL” is our preference for “haha”s “hehe”s, and emoji. The report reveals that more than half of Facebook users express laughter with a “haha,” 13 percent prefer “hehe,” and a whopping third of users don’t even use words: For younger users, a smiley face says it all.

(Facebook)

So why is a shorthand that was so popular that it made its way into the Oxford English Dictionary on the verge of extinction? One reason might be because it has an ambiguous meaning. When a friend texts you a simple “LOL,” she could be actually laughing, expressing sarcasm, or just being dismissive, writes psychologist Marcia Eckerd at Psychology Today.

Of course, you can say that about any shorthand used in text messaging. But “Haha,”can be written differently to express different things—from the polite “haha” to the more deranged “hahahahaha.” Sarah Larson at The New Yorker, whose story inspired Facebook’s research, breaks it down this way:

“Haha” means you’re genuinely amused, and that maybe you laughed a little in real life. (The singsong Nelson Muntz-style “ha ha,” of course, is completely different—we don’t do this to our friends. There’s also the sarcastic “ha ha,” a British colleague reminded me: he’s used to reading “ha ha” as “Oh, ha ha,” as in, Aren’t you a wag. “But I’m learning to read it as good,” he said. Poor guy.) “Hahaha” means that you’re really amused: Now you’re cooking. More than three “ha”s are where joy takes flight. When you’re doing this, you’re laughing at your desk and your co-workers can hear you, or you’re texting with both hands, clacking and laughing away.

“Hehe,” is on the rise and particularly popular among men. That one’s a bit mysterious, writes Larson, but to some, it hints at a bit of mischief.

A TV writer said, “ ‘Hehehe’ reminds me of Scooby-Doo. ...” Good point: Scooby’s laugh is a sneaky, musical series of “hee-hee”s.

The widespread use of emoji is both intriguing and alarming. It could mean that literate communication is headed for extinction, or it might mean we’re getting better at reading our friends’ cues. Elise Hu, NPR’s correspondent in South Korea, recently took screenshots of her family’s texts on a popular instant messaging app called Line for a blog post titled “We’ve Moved Into A Post-Literate Communication Era.” They used no words to communicate, only emoji—or rather “stickers,” the post-emoji version of emoji.

Who needs words anymore when a picture is worth a thousand of them?

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Life

    Mapping the Changing Colors of Fall Across the U.S.

    Much of the country won’t see those vibrant oranges and reds until mid-October, which leaves plenty of time for leaf peepers to plan their autumn road trips.

  2. a photo of a full parking lot with a double rainbow over it
    Transportation

    Parking Reform Will Save the City

    Cities that require builders to provide off-street parking trigger more traffic, sprawl, and housing unaffordability. But we can break the vicious cycle.   

  3. Transportation

    Why Are Little Kids in Japan So Independent?

    In Japan, small children take the subway and run errands alone, no parent in sight. The reason why has more to do with social trust than self-reliance.

  4. A woman looks straight at camera with others people and trees in background.
    Equity

    Why Pittsburgh Is the Worst City for Black Women, in 6 Charts

    Pittsburgh is the worst place for black women to live in for just about every indicator of livability, says the city’s Gender Equity Commission.

  5. a map comparing the sizes of several cities
    Maps

    The Commuting Principle That Shaped Urban History

    From ancient Rome to modern Atlanta, the shape of cities has been defined by the technologies that allow commuters to get to work in about 30 minutes.

×