Each week, we ask a FACE contributor to break down their biggest ick. Check out previous columns here.
If you’re someone who spends a lot of time online – because of your job, or maybe just for fun – you’ve probably noticed that people tend to speak in a very similar way. On Twitter especially, there’s an “online” way of speaking, which is easy to pinpoint yet hard to describe. People use lowercase letters and exclamation points to appear aloof and semi-ironic yet also sincere. There are emojis that people do and don’t use. People refer to their “silly little lives” and end their opinions with “imo!!!” and “tbh!!!” It’s a way of speaking that has probably filtered into my own lexicon, tbh!!! It also, without a doubt, gives me the ick.
It’s not just this online way of speaking that gives me the ick, it’s being “extremely online” in general. This might seem hypocritical because as a writer and editor I spend a lot of time online and often adhere to social media’s “silly little” rules subconsciously. But as Hannah Ewens pointed out in her own Ickbait column: “Our icks are really all about us.” I gross myself out by being engaged on social media (“Like me! Like me! Like me!”) and therefore I’m judgmental when I spot this same, vulnerable quality in others. It’s not fair, but icks aren’t fair – they’re mean and nonsensical and you can’t shake them.
Sometimes, I think this ick of mine is not conducive to navigating the modern world. I get the ick when people post so many Instagram stories that the bar at the top resembles a row of tiny marching ants. I get the ick when someone takes a selfie with someone they’re not friends with because they think it will look good to be with that person. I get the ick when people spend all their time on Twitter and refer to things that happened on Twitter. I get the ick when they call it “this bird app”.
I’d like to point out that this is not an ick I experience with my friends. Being “very online” doesn’t make me like a person any less. But it does make me less sexually and romantically attracted to a person. For example, you wouldn’t care if your mate came over and ate a plate of turkey dinosaurs and veganaise in their pyjamas. In fact, you would rightfully join them. If it were a grown man you had just started shagging, however, that same act might make you want to shrivel up and never shag them again. That’s how I feel about seeing someone use the phrase “OOMF” (one of my friends/followers).
Another thing I’d like to clarify is that it’s not being online generally that gives me the ick (I like seeing nice photos and having a laugh!). It’s a specific type of being online that exists among millennials and older Gen Z. It’s thinking that being online is the be all and end all. It’s using particular words and phrases that show you are an online person. It’s genuinely thinking that there’s a “cool table” of the online world and that you’re sat at it or, worse, that you wish you could be sat on it. Sorry to break it to you, but there’s no such thing. The concept is an oxymoron.
There are also exceptions to the rule. The thing about the ick is that it usually happens when you’re not that attracted to a person anyway. You might have been unsure about them, and then seeing them “hold the remote up high when changing a TV channel” acts as a final nail in the coffin. If you fancy someone properly, though, even them doing supposedly gross or lame things doesn’t bother you. I know someone who helped a lover unblock a toilet with their bare hands. Astonishingly, it didn’t give them the ick because they fancied them. Icks in general are epheremal, and more about the person than the act. That’s why they’re so difficult to articulate, I think.
When I try and zero in on why those who are extremely online give me the ick, I find it hard to come up with a straightforward answer. Maybe it’s because there’s nothing fitter than those who do their own thing, without caring what others think, which is the opposite of what social media language and trends are. Maybe it’s because I’m embedded in that world, due to my job as a writer, and so I romanticise those who aren’t. Maybe it’s because I have a partner who uses a burner phone and who I have to explain memes to, and I find this refreshing. It’s probably all of the above, plus some extra reasons that I’m not aware of. Either way, I’m logging off.