I’m Sure The Laughter Eases The Sting: "
Submitted by: S. VonDoom via Submission Page"
As you may or may not know, I studied interpersonal communication in grad school, with a strong focus on communication technologies. At the intersection of interpersonal & technology, I've been fascinated to watch the emergence of emoticons as a new non-verbal written language. As far as I know, this is the first example in history! (It's possible there's something in one of the hieroglyphic languages, but that's not a field I'm familiar with) While not a true emoticon, LOL and all its derivatives fall into this category in my mind, as they are text-based indicators of emotional state and non-verbal information (laughter being non-verbal).
What really fascinates me is when people use LOL incorrectly. Granted, there's the argument that all communication is defined by usage, so if theory doesn't match field observation then theory is wrong. Ignoring that for now (for reasons I'll explain later upon request), I saw a lot in chatrooms LOL being used to take the sting out of insults. Or possibly indicate laughing at the target of the barb.
Assuming the more generous possibility for now, the idea seemed to be that LOL next to a phrase such as, "You suck!" indicated it was a joke. I'm laughingly, playfully telling one of my friends they suck. If this is true, it's an example of assumed over-familiarity, because this behavior often occurred between complete strangers. Saying IRL, "You suck, haha!" makes the insult worse. So this is an intriguing evolution, and somewhat contrary. Fine, and a natural growth of the phoneme (what's a nonverbal phoneme? A noneme?), but it stuck out in my mind because LOL is supposed to be an indication that I am physically laughing at the time I type this. Typing LOL at your own joke is as gauche as laughing at your own jokes. And laughing IRL to indicate that something was meant to be a joke is usually a sign the joke failed. Miserably.
Makes me wonder what was meant in the exchange captured above. Was it an attempt to lighten the situation? Break the tension? An overly cute attempted greeting (I walk into the room smiling and giggling, even when it's bad news!)? It's unclear. Maybe one of the participants will find this and elucidate.