19 October 2005

The digital laughing problem

A typical instant messaging (IM) conversation

IMcrazy4IM: And then I got bopped on the head like little Bunny Fufu.
GirlzRule4884: lol, at least you didn't get turned into a Goon!
IMcrazy4IM: Haha luckily I still have 2 more chances...
GirlzRule4884: Hahaha, leave those field mice alone!

Social communication typically contains plenty of humor and lightheartedness. In fact, people's ability to make us laugh is usually a very endearing quality. Often the degree of laughter serves as feedback to the speaker of the demand for further joking (there is nothing worse than a speaking who has a large supply of low demand jokes!).

The IM world imposes a digital shroud between two participants, for instance by converting vocal and sub-vocal laughing into alphanumeric characters (e.g. "haha x 1000") . Through my years of experience in this mode of communication I've noticed the following

  • Haha is the most commonly used. It rarely means that person is actually laughing, instead, a mental laugh or a slight smile usually accompanies this reponse.
  • LOL is a relatively close second. Literally short for "laughing out loud," this is probably only true in slightly more cases than haha.
  • Haha and LOL are often used interchangeably to add variety to the conversation.
  • Usually when some one is really laughing out loud, they will deviate from these two common responses by either adding more ha to create a longer chain, and/or by typing in words the fact that one is truly laughing (e.g., hahahahaha. I can't stop laughing!).
So while standardization and translation of the laughing inputs may help lower the shroud blocking the feedback loop, this is probably not in high demand by IM users. For one, IM often creates funny situations because of this barrier. Also it is a lot easier to be polite by laughing over IM than trying to laugh in real life (where it may be obvious that your laugh is fake).

1 comment:

Dad said...

hahahahaha, I can't stop laughing!