Are you a “haha”? Do you LOL? Or are you a devotee of the tears-of-joy emoji? As it turns out, how you laugh on the Internet says a lot about you.
Riffing off writer Sarah Larson’s April New Yorker story about how we show amusement online, Facebook’s research team recently published a blog post adding some cold, hard data to the mix. The team revealed Facebook had conducted an analysis of posts and comments users published during the last week of May, limiting their sample to posts that contained “at least one string of characters matching laughter” and leaving out private messages.
The findings were surprisingly specific to gender, geography and age. Just who uses “hehe,” anyway?
The results: According to Facebook, expressing laughter online is relatively common. About 15% of people who posted during the week employed at least one so-called “e-laugh”; of these folks, 46% posted a single laugh, while 85% posted fewer than five laughs.
When it came to overall preferences, however, one phrase emerged victorious: “haha.”
Seems like “LOL” is dying off.
In her New Yorker piece, Larson posited that “hehe” sprung forth out of the vocabulary of today’s youth, but Facebook found that this isn’t exactly the case. “From [ages] 13 to 70, the most common laughs are still ‘haha,’ ‘hahaha,’ ‘hahahaha,’ and only then followed by ‘hehe,'” the team wrote.
In fact, while the median Facebook user who employs emojis is somewhat younger than the median “haha”-er, both of these groups are younger than those who use “hehe” and “lol” — suggesting that it’s your parents and grandparents, not your younger siblings, typing out “hehe” in their Facebook statuses.
Meanwhile, Larson’s theory that people use “ha” and “he” as Legos — that is, they use them to build on longer phrases, like “hahahahaha” — proved mostly true. According to the data, “The most common are the four-letter ‘hahas’ and ‘hehes.’ The six letter ‘hahaha’ is also very common, and in general, the ‘haha’-ers use longer laughter.” (The team also found one instance of a more than 600-letter long “haha.”)
“Lol,” on the other hand, is an island, appearing mostly by itself — though “rare specimens of ‘lolz’ and ‘loll’ were found.” Emojis usually crop up by themselves, too.
The team also found that women tend to use emoji to express laughter more often, while men use “haha.” But these numbers are also affected by geography. If you live in Florida, for example, you might use emojis more often than your Californian compatriots.
Rise of the emoji: It’s not just Florida. Emojis were the go-to laughter meter for a third of Facebook users in the sample, suggesting that our little emoticon friends have seeped into our use of language to perhaps even more than we knew.
The Facebook team theorized that emojis are much more pithy than words like “haha” or “lol,” posing the idea that “emoji offer a concise way to convey various forms of laughter[.]” The hypothesis makes sense: Faces, even if they’re genderless blobs, are much more customizable than a blanket term like “haha.”
It fits in with other recent data too. In April, SwiftKey, an word-predicting app, released an “Emoji Report” that revealed that countries all over the world are using emojis to converse on a daily basis — in fact, over the four-month period the report evaluated, over 1 billion emojis were sent back and forth between the world’s texters.
Emojis are everywhere: Moby Dick, sexy Instagram posts, Beyoncé swag and, as Facebook has revealed, the way we express humorous feelings.
Of course, it’s not smart to write off words and letters altogether, given the overall popularity of “haha.” But if the numbers are any indication, the little laughing/crying face is catching up fast.
By Sophie Kleeman