It’s official: LOL is dead. But that doesn’t mean that we’re no longer laughing out loud — we’re just finding other ways to express hilarity online.
A study performed by Facebook looked at various expressions of laughter on the social network in the last week of May and discovered that only 1.9 percent of users were writing “LOL” to express amusement. In contrast, 51.4 percent of people used a variation of “haha” and 13.1 percent used a variation of “hehe”.
Unsurprisingly, emoji are also huge; a third of people turned to the cartoony symbols to help them relay their mirth, the study said. They were used far more frequently by young people and women, Facebook found, whereas men tended towards deploying long “hehes”. Most people use a single variant of the expressions studied to express laughter — only 20 percent of users used two different types of laugh.
Facebook users are generally cheerful bunch — the social network has found that around 15 percent of people included laughter in at least one comment or post during the study. While in the real world laughter takes the form of an emotional vocalization, it’s hardly surprising that we’ve developed multiple ways to carry over this fundamentally social behaviour into our online interactions.
Facebook’s study was based on an article about online laughter by Sarah Larson in The New Yorker. In the article, Larson suggests that the expression “ha” is like a Lego piece that people build with to express different levels of laughter. Facebook found this to be true of “ha”, and also, albeit to a lesser extent, of “he”. The hahaers generally used longer laughter, and while most used four, six or eight letters, some used far more — including one that was discovered by Facebook’s computer to be constructed from 600 characters.
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In contrast, a single emoji was used 50 percent of the time, and it was very rare to find people using more than five identical consecutive emojis. “LOL” was pretty much always a three-character response, except for in a tiny number of cases where people favoured “loll” or “lolz”.
What is clear is that online laughter — or “e-laughter” as Facebook calls it — is evolving. The heyday of LOL and other laughter acronyms is over. They have been replaced in part by words attempting to mimic the sound of speech, and in part by emoji, which only seem to be growing in popularity.