When it comes to dating I don't discriminate. I've never had a 'type' - a concept I've never really understood - or a mental checklist detailing prerequisites that potential candidates must tick off before I grant them the honour of my company. That's right: job, background, creed, whether they shop at Sports Direct or American Apparel - it's no odds to me. As long as I've got a connection with a person, they make me laugh and well, you know, I fancy them, then it's all go. I do, however, have one absolute deal-breaker - something which has the potential to turn me off a man like wildfire - I can't date a guy with bad grammar and I could never, ever, date someone who says lol.
Yes. I would rather a man with a bad lisp, two lazy eyes or one who wore proper shoes with jeans than a loller. I am fully aware that this might sound snobby, petty, maybe even arrogant, but I believe that textspeak is slowly but surely permeating our speech, reducing our language and turning us into a generation of 'emotionally incontinent mawks', as Janice Turner of the Times put it.
Lol (laughing out loud for the uninitiated) made it into the OED (duh?! the Oxford English Dictionary) in 2011 as an 'initialism', an abbreviation consisting of the initial letters of a name or expression. Similar gems included tmi (too much information), imho (in my humble opinion - who knew?) and, perhaps the most heinous of them all, yolo (you only live once). While I accept such acronyms as the inevitable consequence of the spread of digital communication and social media, I refuse to accept that they are replacing words or, worse still, human emotions.
To my mind, lol is at best mildly irritating, at worst lazy, disingenuous and just plain dumb. The sight of it triggers the same wave of nausea I get when I hear the Go Compare jingle or when someone updates their Facebook status with '.com' ('tired.com!!') or invents a cringworthy, generic hashtag to end a statement on Twitter - hard to articulate but strong enough to churn my stomach and make me despair in humanity. Here's a classic example from an exchange I recently witnessed on twitter:
Girl: 'OMG. Boys are SO frustrating # Girl Problems *angry emoticon*
Boy: why are we frustrating lol *winky emoticon*
This kind of 'conversation' both baffles and depresses me. 'Where is the punctuation?' my brain screams 'Why is there a lol just hanging there at the end of the sentence like some useless appendage?' 'What's the point of the emoticons? 'What does it all MEAN? So when a message from a potential date appears in my inbox saying, 'Sunday morning how's the hangover lol', well let's just say the potential is lost.
As a means of expression lol is incredibly reductive. Put it this way, what did people say before lol (and for that matter emojis) existed? Hard to remember I know but my guess is real words or - GASP - actual sentences? I fail to see how a multi-layered concept like humour spanning irony, sarcasm, satire, parody, slapstick, bathos and pathos too, got bundled up and re-packaged into three meaningless letters? It's synthetic emotion: faceless, generic, immature and just makes me feel like I'm talking to a hollographic image of the 21st century instead of a real life individual.
Another problem with lol's ambiguity is its tendency to mask emotions. Lols at the end of messages while dating can be particularly perplexing: 'You're crazy - just kidding lol', 'Of course I want to meet your parents lol', and have you ever noticed how some people use lol as a way to mitigate a potentially devastating message or status update? 'Single on a Saturday night for the first time in 8 years...oh well, looks like it's takeaway tonight lol'.
Besides all of which, have you ever noticed that the very reason a person has said they are 'LMAO' (laughing my arse off) or even LMFAO (you guessed it - laughing my f***ing arse off) is invariably not even remotely funny? Strange that.
Most disturbing of all, this teeny-tech-robotron language is rapidly infiltrating peoples' actual speech. An entire generation are growing up thinking that this is the norm, that this is the way we've always spoken. Am I the only one who has silently despaired on a bus journey as a group of teenagers proudly and defiantly scream nonsensical words at each other which neither we, nor probably even they, mutually understand? I can't help but feel that by dumbing down our language we are inevitably dumbing down ourselves. We produced Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, we have the richest vocabulary in the entire world, and what do we type inanely to each other behind our plastic screens? 'Ha ha. Lol.'
So please, next time you go to lol, even ironically so, spare a thought for our language? And posterity? Thanks.