Sometimes there’s just no word for a particular idea. Shakespeare knew, in those circumstances, to just make one up – which is why we have words like “assassination”, “cold blooded” and “swagger” today.
English regularly borrows words from other languages, especially when there’s no equivalent. For example: the German word “schadenfreude” started popping up a lot in the early 1990’s, thanks to The Simpsons, and then again in the early 2000’s, thanks in part to a song performed by puppets. The reason: it’s a feeling we all have regularly, but didn’t know there was a word for.
Language evolves alongside human experience, and the web’s affect on human experience is of course profound. Some web terms have already entered the lexicon: selfie, fail, and facepalm all need no introduction.
There are plenty of Internet experiences we all have every day, that lack names. Let’s name them, together.
1. The Undeniable Urge to Correct Strangers Online
You’re scrolling through Facebook, when you notice your friend linked to something you’re interested in – science, religion, sports, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the comment someone else, presumably a friend of your friend, posted below the article – which you know with 100 per cent certainty to be wrong.
You have to do something. You dive deep into writing a response, correcting the record and hopefully setting your friend’s friend on the path to enlightenment.
Of course, it doesn’t work; the friend argues back. Other people jump in, defending the original incorrect statement. I hope you’ve got the next couple of hours free, because you’re about to go down the rabbit hole.
This is a feeling we’re all familiar with, but there’s no word for it. The closest thing we have is this comic from XKCD:
The comic is incredibly effective at communicating the feeling, and is commonly linked to or embedded for just this reason. But I think we need a word. Any ideas?
2. Things You’re Not Sure Are Real or Fictional, But Love Anyway
The other day, while scrolling through Twitter, I saw this:
— ???? (@Alby) February 15, 2015
This is what the Internet is for, right? Obscure, fascinating things that lead you down a rabbit hole of thought for just a few moments.
Personally, I loved how a label that looks so clerical, so sterile, is on a jar of something so familiar: peanut butter. I love that I can picture this shelf as being in a closet beside any lab I’ve ever visited, and I love that it’s all from NIST – a huge government building I live a bike ride away from, but have never visited. Are they all just playing with peanut butter in there? $751 peanut butter, calibrated to be the proper texture and consistency for Science?
Also: is this just made up? I could make this in Photoshop in about five minutes, after all. Surely they’re not actually making $751 jars of peanut butter, right? That’s insane.
I had all of these thoughts, and more, in about a second. I smiled, maybe even laughed to myself a little. Then I kept scrolling, because Twitter.
This feeling isn’t about truth: it’s about delight in something you can’t be bothered to confirm. This is something I suspect most Internet users experience several times a week, and it needs a name. Any suggestions?
(In case you’re curious beyond delight: the peanut butter is real, according to a New York Times article from 2003. Go head: destroy your sense of wonder by reading facts).
3. Feeling Like The Last Person on Earth To Find Out About Something That Happened 15 Minutes Ago
February 26, 2015 was…interesting.
GIVE US NET NEUTRALITY!!!!!!! "Okay, here's net neutrali-" Holy shit llamas "Wait, what about ne-" WHAT COLOR IS THIS DRESS OMFG
— Dan Munz (@dan_munz) February 27, 2015
I spent most of the day offline, trying to get some writing done. I read about the net neutrality ruling in the morning, and assumed that would be the big story of the day.
Two hours later, when I checked Twitter during a break, everyone was talking about llamas as though I should just know why. I didn’t, and never fully figured out what was up going on (apparently some llamas were terrorizing Arizona?)
Then, a couple hours later, everyone was talking about #TheDress, and saying they were on different #Teams, and you know what? That was enough Internet for the day.
That was an extreme day, sure, but it’s really common to open up social media and feel like you’ve stepped into a conversation already in progress – one where everyone assumes you’re already in on the joke. It’s disorienting, and there’s not really a word for it. Any ideas?
What Other Internet Feelings Need Words?
These are just three things we all feel regularly online, but which have no names. So I’m asking you, dear readers, to dream up names with me in the comments.
While we’re at it: what other online feelings need names? Let’s identify a few more. I’m really looking forward to the conversation.