Sonntag, Januar 24, 2016

History of internet culture in acronyms

I've been on the internet for a pretty long time now. At least for me, getting on the internet back in the 90s meant making myself familiar with its "local" culture, customs and traditions. I'm sure that is still the case for many today. Curiously, I started to notice the appearance of acronyms that I wasn't familiar with, and I thought it interesting to consider how changing acronyms reflect broader changes of internet culture.

Back in the old days, a large fraction of what the internet was about was more or less serious, text-based discussion among relatively small groups. This shows in acronyms that facilitate such discussion, like AFAIK (as far as I know) or IM(H)O (in my (humble) opinion). Of course, social interactions could be rough back then as well: for every IMHO there's an IMNSHO (in my not so humble opinion), and of course there is the tradition of telling people to RTFM (read the f{ine, ucking} manual).

The acronyms that I did not recognize at first reflect an internet that has changed. MFW (my face when) reflects a culture of image reaction macros that were made possible by higher bandwidth. ICYMI (in case you missed it) certainly developed as the internet became a mass communication medium where shared stories and memes roll around. Similarly, ITT (in this thread) is a pattern where the author of a posting tries to set themselves apart from the "herd" of others in the thread, clearly a reaction to the increased size of groups and increasing anonymity in which the interactions often take place.