Netspeak irl

Reflecting on a rise and fall of Netspeak online among my peers, I’ve been wondering why its tendency to sneak from social media messages into real-life verbal communication persists, and has even come to eclipse its presence on its native platform.

Here are the stats (sample size ME… as a representative of my peer group and more broadly Gen Y):


  • I use “omg”, “idc”, “idk”, “nvm” very sparingly (less and less due to spell-check)


  • I use “idk”, “nvm” a little more often than “irl” through social media messaging, but still not a lot
  • I use “brb” every now and then (“burb”)
  • I think I used “irl” once in real life
There is a difference between serious and sarcastic deployment of Netspeak in real life.

Truth be told, I love to use Netspeak in real life. I think it’s hilarious. And this is important distinction to make: there is a difference between serious and sarcastic deployment of Netspeak in real life. All of the above examples are strictly for fun, and only used between close Gen Y friends (from my own observation). Beyond me, however, we have observed widespread adoption of Netspeak—used in all seriousness—in common social discourse. There’s been a bombardment of “omg”, “wtf” and “bff”: not only do they appear in magazines, on clothing and stationery and in utterances from the mouths of televion and movie stars; but also in day-to-day verbal communication.

The higher you fly the further you fall: such is the case with “lol”. “Lol” reached its peak way back in the late naughties, and I honestly couldn’t tell you the last time I received a serious “lol” in my inbox from any Gen Y-er. “Lol” is a perfect example of the rapid turnover of popular vocabulary unique to Netspeak, in which words bloom and fade quick as fireworks.

This rapid turnover of its vocabulary can be one of the negative aspects of Netspeak.