Gen-Z replaces LOL with new acronym IJBOL: What does it mean?

This summer, the acronym LOL has gone out of style amongst Gen-Z-ers and has been replaced in popularity by IJBOL, which stands for “I just burst out laughing”.

With social media users crowning it as the superior acronym, the latest laughing online acronym has been brought to the forefront of pop culture. The acronym IJBOL describes the real-life reaction many have when they laugh. The acronym hones in on the type of laugh that would arise from either surprise or holding it in. Its relatability makes it unsurprising that the internet has taken to it.

When asked about her preference for IJBOL by the New York Times, a 25-year-old bank analyst named Ellie said that she made the transition to IJBOL because she felt it was more true to her experience while laughing “behind the screen”. She elaborated, saying: “I’m usually just quiet and then I let out a snort.”

Others feel like it’s about time a new acronym replaced a slew of pre-existing acronyms like LMAO and ROFL. Another twentysomething, Micheal, a 27-year-old content creator, explained to the outlet: “I don’t LMAO. It’s just not what I do.”

He continued, “I associate LMAO with millennial humor. But then I associate IJBOL with Gen Z humour, which is funnier.”

Online, the acronym has been associated with gifs of famous faces like Nicki Minaj, who was captured on a livestream laughing so hard she fell back in her chair, or most notably, vice president Kamala Harris, who has become the unofficial face of IJBOL after many videos and gifs of her doubling over with laughter have gone viral online.

“It’s sort of like her ‘meme-able’ factor,” 20-year-old student Sebastian remarked to the New York Times. “When IJBOL came out, people started to just like use her as a way to coincide the two together, because she’s kind of like the perfect definition of IJBOL. She’s always laughing at everything.”

While the acronym has been around since 2009, according to Mashable, the K-pop community injected new life into the acronym when they adopted it in 2021 to categorize their favorite idols according to their favorite internet acronyms.

In recent months, however, IJBOL moved from niche circles and fandom forums to the broader social media landscape when users began to use gifs and images of celebrities laughing and including IJBOL in the caption.

Professor Michelle McSweeney, who currently studies digital laughter at the CUNY Graduate Center, called niche corners of the internet like the K-pop community “spaces of creativity”. As the author of the book OK, which examines how technology shapes language, contextualizing and analyzing internet jargon like IJBOL is well within Professor McSweeney’s area of expertise.

“It so doesn’t surprise me that it first started on K-pop Twitter,” Professor McSweeney, continued to explain. “Because that’s also a pretty tight-knit community that communicates a lot with each other and creates these new norms.”

The professor also noted that when outsiders adopt acronyms central to niche online circles, what made it so fun initially can get lost. The circulation of new lingo into the popular lexicon, she explains, is necessary.

“You would totally use LOL with your boss. I will say that I have used LMAO with my boss, but like, that’s as far as I escalate,” said Professor McSweeney. “That’s why we need to bring new terms into circulation, because you’re not going to write to your best friend the same thing they’re going to write to your boss.”