The Fall and Rise of “LOL”


When acronyms became “cool” for texting and instant messaging, I was relatively unimpressed. We’d used acronyms in my house for years. “MIHAPOB” for “may I have a piece of bread,” “YNTM” for “you’re not the mom,” “TCB” for “then come back,” etc etc.

I suppose the first time I realized acronyms were entering the popular vernacular was when I was about eleven or twelve and read an American Girl Magazine article about instant messaging. We still had dial-up, so instant messenger was unattainable, but as an avid e-mailer the idea of it fascinated me.

I read the list of popular IM acronums. “TTYL” means “talk to you later.” “BRB” means “be right back.” “LOL” means “laugh out loud.”

Wait, what?

How was “LOL” a thing? When in real life do people actually say “laugh out loud?” How often do they actually laugh out loud when reading instant messages?

It was stupid, and I was sure it would blow over.

Eventually we got DSL internet and I downloaded instant messeger. My friends began texting. Xanga happened. Facebook. And still, people said “LOL.” What was wrong with them?

I stubbornly stuck to “ha ha.” Every once in a while I switched it up with a “bwa ha ha.” NEVER “ba ha ha.” That was almost as bad as “LOL,” in my opinion.

I suppose my resolve began to crack when I started literally laughing out loud at things on Facebook, and wanting to let people know the extent of how hilarious they were. So I would say, “literal LOL.” That’s not so bad, right?

Well recently, in the past few months or so, I realized that my infrequent “literal LOL”s were morphing into not-so-infrequent straight-up “LOL”s.

I had finally succumbed to the hated acronym that wouldn’t die.

I had lost. I’m sorry, teenage self that wanted so desperately to be different. I have become one of “them.”

And then, I started reading articles like this:

Facebook Says ‘Haha’ is Popular and ‘LOL’ is Outdated.

And I had only one response:



The Refugee Challenge

I have a challenge for you.

I want you to think about how much media you have consumed about the Syrian refugee crisis. You probably spent several hours reading about it before the events in Paris even took place. I’m guessing your entire Friday evening was spent glued to Twitter, Facebook, or your favorite news source, watching the events unfold in real time.

Since then, you’ve probably spent hours on Facebook seeing memes and opinions splashed about, as well as read multiple informative articles on the subject.

Now. How much time have you spent reading your Bible and praying about the issue?

As my audience is mostly Christian, I’m guessing you have spent some time exploring what God has to say. However, I’m going to propose that VERY FEW OF YOU have spent as much time in the Word and in prayer as you have online reading news and opinions. I certainly haven’t.

So here’s my challenge: Start to bridge that gap.

Open your Bible. Pray that God would show you what He wants you to see. Read. Find every verse that talks about anything related to the refugee crisis. What does the Bible say about immigrants? What does the Bible say about personal safety? What does the Bible say about Muslims? It’s all fair game.

I was going to only issue this challenge to Christians, but I changed my mind. Non-Christians, why don’t you start reading too? Read what the Bible says, and ask yourself this: do the Christians you know really believe their own book?

That’s the extent of the challenge. I’m not asking you to agree with me. I’m not asking you to vote for something or not vote for something else.

Just read your Bible. Pray.

That’s it.

What you do afterwords is between you and God.


What We Do for Extra Credit


I gotta say, dressing up and lip-syncing to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” is the weirdest thing I’ve ever done for extra credit.

I posted this picture on Facebook and multiple people asked me for the full story. Goodness. How do I even begin to explain that class?

I guess I should have known what I was getting into. After all, I did go online and register for a class called “Small Group Communication.” But see, by the time I got around to registering, classes had mostly filled up, and I was blindly clicking on anything that fulfilled my graduation requirements.

It didn’t really occur to me until the first day of class that I had just signed up for lots and lots of group work. (Which, if you have ever been to college, you know can be ab-so-lute-lee brutal.)

This class though. About 1/3 of it is lecture, and the other 2/3 is group activity. One day your team is stacking oddly-shaped blocks. One day you’re trying to come up with a solution to the feral cat problem, while trying to ignore the team behind you telling each other wild stories about their aunt’s friend’s cat who mated with a bobcat and had a half-bobcat kitten. One day you’re crawling on the floor trying to get through a desk-and-string maze.

Let’s just say, I’ve gotten to know these classmates better than I usually get to know my classmates.

On Friday, my teacher pulled out the ULTIMATE class activity. Unlike other class activities, this was actually worth something. If your team got 1800 points, you would get 10 points of extra credit.

There were five rounds. Three were played Friday, and the last two were played today.

Now, I should probably add that for nearly all of the games, tests, assignments, etc, our class is divided into three teams. There is my team, “The Emilys,” which consists of me, two other girls named “Emily,” a guy named Marcus (who interestingly enough is married to a girl named Emily), and a girl named Grace. The remaining 7 girls in the class have a team, and the remaining 4 boys in the class have a team.

Round 1, each team randomly drew a card. The cards were worth an arbitrary number of points. My team got negative points. Lucky us. The boys got the most points, so they got to choose a team to humiliate. They choose us. We had to hum “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Rounds 2 and 3 were also mostly based on chance, and involved drawing cards. My team wasn’t particularly lucky. The girls got “humiliated” and had to do the bunny hop. The boys got “humiliated” and had to crow like a rooster for a minute and a half.

Just another day in a small group communication class.

Anyway, just before class was out, my teacher pulled up a song on youtube:

“On Monday,” she said, “your team will lip-sync to this song. Teams that do well in this exercise often bring props and costumes. Goodbye, have a good weekend.”

“How badly do you want to win this thing?” Marcus asked us.

“Really bad! I can make a lion mane! Can I be the lead singer? I have an African shirt!” I said.

I love this kind of thing. Not gonna lie. And furthermore, it seemed like we were finally going to get a chance to gain points based on effort, not luck.

So, I made a lion mane that weekend. I listened to “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” over and over until I had all the lyrics memorized. I dug in the attic this morning until I found an African shirt. I tried it on, and it fit, but I couldn’t get it off so I wore it all day.

Unfortunately, the girls all showed up with jungle-animal costumes and choreographed dance moves. They were awarded 750 points, while my team got 500. The boys completely winged it, using the chalkboard eraser as their “microphone” and slapping it periodically to release a dramatic cloud of white fog. They got 25o points.

We went into the last round with the girls sitting pretty, and the boys and us duking it out for the remaining points. This also involved a complicated system of drawing playing cards, in which we were, once again, quite unlucky.

The story ends sadly: Everyone got their 1800 points, with the 10 points of extra credit, except my team.

Yep. That spectacular lion mane was all for nothing.

Now, throughout all of this none of us could figure out what the point was. All our games and activities are supposed to teach valuable truths about small groups, but what do playing cards and lip-syncing have to do with anything we’ve been studying?

“Now,” said my teacher, as my team slumped dejectedly in our chairs at the end of the game, a discarded lion mane on the desk. “That exercise was about power.”

Class was over.

“We’ll talk about it more on Wednesday,” she said.

So. I memorized a song, made a lion mane, and wore an African shirt all day until my Mom helped me wiggle out of it when I got home. And I got no extra credit. However, not to worry! I learned all about power! At least, I will on Wednesday.

ETA: My mom read this and said it comes across like a very juvenile exercise, and will make people question why on EARTH I am paying good money to take classes like this.

Fair enough. It was a juvenile exercise. However, I have to say, as strange as this class is it is oddly effective. I’m guessing, as far as retention goes, I’ll remember what I learned in this class much longer than in my lecture classes, because I’ll have these unique activities to tie the concepts to. (And also, this is by far the silliest thing we’ve done so far. So there’s that.)

Words of an Educated Amishman


I’ve been spending a LOT of time at school recently, since Ben and I ended up with widely different schedules, yet only bought one parking pass to share between us. Some days it’s dark when I get up and dark when I leave school.

As a way to productively fill some of the extra hours, I’ve been typing up my Grandpa’s handwritten memoirs. My Grandpa, who is almost 99, has the extremely unique distinction of having gotten his bachelor’s and master’s degrees while still old order Amish. Since I am also interested in education, this is an area where I like to pick his brain.

Yesterday I began typing the education section of his memoir, which began like this:

“On the subject of education I hardly know where to begin or where to end. Some of it was gained in a small creek, where there were minnows and tadpoles and crawdads, and some of it in university halls. It began at the cradle and it continues until now.”

What a nice sentiment. I quite like the idea of still continuing my education at the age of 99.

When I reached the section where Grandpa described his motivation for going to college, I was surprised.

Context: Grandpa was in a CPS camp, as a conscientious objector during WWII. As the war was ending, he was trying to figure out what to do next. He wrote this about what led him toward thinking about college:

“I still had the desire to return to farming sometime, but I also saw some needs in our Amish church. I felt that our people were too uneducated. They were too poorly acquainted with our faith and practices. I was backed into a corner time and again trying to explain my faith. Should I try going to college? Could I help the situation if I went to college?”

It fascinated me that college came (at least partially) out of a desire to be able to explain his faith. Now, in conservative Anabaptist circles, the fear is that college will destroy your faith.

For me, though, college has vastly strengthened my faith. If nothing else, I saw just how many people did not actually have peace in their hearts. It astounded me, and I saw that the Holy Spirit had indeed given me peace that passed all understanding. (Philippians 4:7, Galatians 5:22)

Furthermore I’ve noticed, like my Grandpa before me, that many Christians/Mennonites have a hard time adequately explaining their faith to people who don’t speak Christianese.

I haven’t finished transcribing Grandpa’s memoirs, but already I’m completely fascinated by what he has to say. It’s hard to have a conversation with him, as he is nearly deaf, but the stories give me a glimpse of what goes on in his still-sharp mind.

Good Grief, I Just Like Culture

Isn’t there an irony in the fact that I am a communications major, and I’ve been a blogger for ten years, yet I can’t seem to adequately communicate a simple concept on my blog?

Friday night I posted about hipster Mennonites. I knew it was likely to go Menno-viral, with that picture and that headline, so I was expecting a little misunderstanding. Maybe some hipster-ish Mennos would feel a bit attacked. However, I was completely unprepared for the odd off-topic comments that poured in when I shared it on Facebook.

Which, for me, raised a question I’ve never thought of before:

Are we incapable of noticing interesting and/or humorous things about a culture without condemning, passing judgement, or idolizing that culture?

Exhibit A: This is exactly the reason I left the Mennonite thing it is not about Christianity it’s about being a Mennonite.”

With all the likes and replies this comment received it seemed to strike a nerve, but I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how it related to my post. The hipsters put their Mennonite-ness over Christ? I’m putting my Mennonite-ness over Christ by “judging” the hipsters?

I just…what?

Exhibit B: Present day mennonites now wearing all the latest name brands now say….it matters whats on the inside….bunch of wackos with one foot on either side of the fence.

Yeah but…do you know anything about hipsters? Brand names aren’t really a thing. If you’re concerned about it, perhaps you should explore the topic in a blog post of your own.

Exhibit C: It’s pretty easy to point out all the inconsistencies in any group’s doctrine and practice.

Maybe so. But, I promise, I wasn’t trying to point out anyone’s inconsistencies in that post.

Honestly, I just like noticing the odd/funny/unique things about cultures.

I know that Mennonites can get religion and culture mixed up a bit, and it may seem unique in the individualistic western world we live in, but it’s really a universal problem. Similarly, I know that Mennonites steal some of their trends and ideas from the greater American population, but really, as a whole, we are extraordinarily good at nonconformity.

You may have a lot you want to say about the above topics, and if you do, I encourage you to write up your own blog post/Facebook post about it. My own post was about neither of those things. Not even close.

I just like thinking about culture.

It fascinated me when all the fashionable celebrities began wearing the poofed hair that was Menno-fashionable in my mother’s day. I roared with laughter when culottes (briefly) came in style again. I made a friend from Germany recently, and we spent a long and wonderful afternoon discussing cultural differences between America and Germany.

Apparently she came here and was highly amused to see that our world was, indeed, full of giant yellow school buses and to-go coffee cups, just like in the movies.

To me, seeing hipster Mennonites is odd, funny, and interesting, like the culture of to-go coffee is to Germans.

That’s all.

The Bizarre Hipster Mennonite Trend

Surely I’m not the only one who’s noticed the Pacific Northwest Hipster vibe creeping into Mennonite communities. Specialty coffee. Bushy beards. Donald Miller books. Artsy hole-in-the-wall restaurants. Flannel shirts. Adventuring. On and on.

Am I the only one who finds it odd?

Ever since I connected to the greater American Mennonite culture through social media, I’ve seen trends come and go. They always seemed to originate in the east and then slowly migrate west, so that my area has always been whatever the opposite of “cutting edge” is. Someone going to Bible School and coming home wearing knee-length skirts and leggings was the equivalent of a Victorian-era American going to Paris and then coming home with the news that short sleeves were now “in.”

I’ve always liked PNW culture, but I never expected it to become “cool.” Not in the non-Menno world, and ESPECIALLY not in the Menno world. But it has, to the point where a Facebook photo showed up in my feed of an artsy Mennonite band from back east where one member is wearing a Powell’s Books t-shirt.

Probably the main reason I find this PNW appropriation so weird is that I live in an ACTUAL Mennonite community in the ACTUAL Pacific Northwest, and here, hipster culture just isn’t a thing.

Yes, you could argue that my friends and I have adopted some of the hipster traits we like–wearing weird thrift-store clothes, going hiking, hanging out at coffee shops, etc–but as a whole we are the outliers, and the Mennonites as a whole aren’t into that. It’s not “cool” here unless you’re outside the Menno bubble and probably also in a city somewhere.

So yeah, I find it weird. Not bad, just odd. But here’s what I think: If you have an obsession with PNW culture, you should move to the actual Pacific Northwest.


  1. You’ll be a part of the culture instead of just appropriating it.
  2. The nature thing is legit.
  3. Start an outreach church. Portland is the most non-religious city in America.
  4. Okay, for real though, we’re just kinda lonely out here in our little disconnected Mennonite community. So bring your friends.

What do you think of the hipster Mennonite trend? Have you noticed/participated in it?

About Last Blog Post, and Other Things

Okay, I have a few topics to cover today. I have homework to do but I feel like doing a blog post instead, so I’ll indulge myself. :-)

Topic #1: My Latest Blog Post

First let me say that yes, I am aware that I misspelled “obsession” as “obession” in the title of my blog post. I found it humorous and ironic, but I was kind of annoyed that, even when I fixed it on my blog, the misspelling lived a long un-fixable life on Facebook. I imagined that everyone saw it but couldn’t point it out for fear of coming across as a fake intellectual. :-D

The blog post had one of the most interesting responses I have ever received. Some of the response was expected, and some was quite unexpected.

My post perched on the edge of devaluing education and intelligence in general. I toyed with the idea of putting in lots of disclaimers about how important education is, and how I think intelligence is a worthy thing to aspire to, but in the end I didn’t because that wasn’t what the blog post was about.

I expected this to slightly bother some people who really do value intelligence, and like to read and share things that make them think. I thought I might make them paranoid that their very real aspirations to learn more would be perceived as “fake.” And I did get a little of that, though not as much as I was afraid I might.

So maybe I’ll add one disclaimer: I you are a “fake intellectual” at heart but are sharing things that are actually interesting and bring more information to the world as a whole, while being respectful to those who disagree with you, then great. I don’t like “fakeness,” but I do think good things can come from a place of fakeness. For instance, being kind to someone you don’t like.

However, things that establish your intelligence primarily by labeling an entire group of people as “stupid” have got to go.

There were, however, two very unexpected responses that pleased me immensely.

First, several people admitted that the post hit really close to home for them. I don’t think you guys understand how rare this is. We have a tendency to construct a reality around ourselves, applaud the things that fit this reality, and squirm away silently from the things that don’t. I don’t think I have EVER written something that said, essentially, “you’re doing something wrong,” and had the response be, “oh, you’re right, I am.”

In fact, I don’t know if I have ever responded this way to something I read. The things that actually change my mind usually happen from a slow chipping away at existing ideas. Or, if I do suddenly realize that I’m wrong, I don’t usually have the guts to advertise it.

The other thing that surprised/pleased me was that I got a few private messages about the post.

I’ve often wondered about how the dynamics of blogging (especially blogging about controversy) would change if the only “commenting” option were to message the author directly. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “You should just try it! Disable comments! Tell people not to comment!”

Well, the thing is, many people depend on Facebook to see my posts, and if no one comments on Facebook not nearly as many of my friends will see that I’ve even posted. Yeah, stupid Facebook algorithms. Oh well. I really do like comments, so I don’t mind.

However, private messages are also very nice. So, if you have something to say about my post that you don’t necessarily want to make open to general discussion, feel free to message me on Facebook or send me an email. But also, comment. Either one works. (Or both.)

Topic #2: Contact Information

I added a “contact” tab for that exact reason. My email address has always lurked somewhere around the blog, but I decided to lodge it in an easy-to-find location.

Topic #3: About Me

I keep clicking on the blog links of people who comment on or like my posts, and then being disappointed to find that they have little-to-no “about me” information.

Well hello kettle, my name is pot, because I also have little-to-no “about me” information. You’d think that if I’m narcissistic enough to blog about myself I’d take pleasure in constructing a lengthy essay about who I am. But it still feels weird.

Any help from you on this matter would be appreciated. How do you decide how to describe yourself? When you read the “about me” page of bloggers, what info are you hoping to find?