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Faux Outrage

Literally the most important blog in the universe since 2010.

As someone who has only recently begun to acknowledge that on the Venn Diagram of Life, I am officially outside the oblong spheroid that reads “The Next Generation.”  One of the few benefits of this unfortunate realization is that it is finally acceptable — and encouraged! — that I begin sentences with the phrase, “In my day…”

Kids these days — with their texting machines, Jersey Shores, and Justin Beibers — can you believe them?  No, you can’t!  You can’t believe them at all.  Someone has to set this babyfaced group of ungrateful whippersnappers straight.  And that someone is me, at least for right now, until I get distracted by some YouTube video of two otters holding hands or something.

I guess I’m not that far removed from these 21st century digital kids, you know.


A lot has changed in Internetland since the reality of online chat first slapped me across the face in the mid 1990’s — mostly for the better.  The population of Internet users has grown — quite literally — exponentially.  The number of legitimate resources, for reference and entertainment, is essentially — though not literally — infinite.  We are no longer at the mercy of our analogue phone lines.  These are all enormous steps in a positive direction.

Almost everything about the Internet that could have been improved has been improved.

That said…

In my day, we had more than just ‘BRB’!

And we liked it that way!

Really, we did.  It was a lot better.

Paul Simon is pretty adamant that there are 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, but there are also a number of ways to leave your computer in the midst of an online chatting session.  “BRB” is just the tip of the not-here iceberg, yet it has become the default, the gold standard for every situation, regardless of circumstance.

It didn’t used to be this way.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Just slip out the back, Jack.

Here’s how we used to do it, in the Good Ol’ Days, back when New York Times editors insisted on modifying the word “Internet” with “a series of interconnected computers.”

BRB / “be right back”

BRB actually means something very specific!  It means “be right back.”  Period.  If you are not going to “be right back,” then you should not use BRB.  If you’re going to the bathroom, you will BRB (unless, well, you know).  If you’re getting coffee from the break room, BRB is appropriate. But if you are heading out to lunch, find a different string of letters.

My general rule of thumb is this: Use BRB if the task you are about to engage in is in the same building as the one you are currently inhabiting and will definitely be completed in 5 minutes or less.

Otherwise, here is a list of useful acronyms to choose from.

AFK / “away from keyboard”

Nowadays, when we say BRB, what we usually mean is AFK.  You use AFK when you intend — intentionally or otherwise — to be as vague as possible regarding the amount of time you will be unavailable.  This acronym is used for several reasons, but most often because the speaker (typer?) is unsure of the amount of time that s/he will be absent, or the conversation is over and the amount of time is irrelevant to the other party in the conversation.

If you are about to go help a cat out of a tree, you are AFK.  If you are a cat who is about to go up into a tree, you are also AFK.

BBIAB / “be back in a bit”

BBIAB, for my money (approx. $0), is the most underutilized going-away acronym.  Those of us who used this string of characters back in the day should strongly consider resurrecting it on a permanent basis.  When you type BBIAB, you are communicating to the listening (reading?) party that the amount of time between now, the leaving time, and once again being available to chat is going to be long, but possibly not so long that the current conversation should be considered “over.”

When the party you are communicating with claims BBIAB, feel free to temporarily remove yourself from the conversation.  Get up.  Have a glass of water.  Crank out a few more pages of that memoir you’ve been working on.  They’ll be back, but not soon enough that you should feel compelled to be an active member of the conversation.

BBL / “be back later”

BBL is as close as you can get to saying goodbye without typing T-T-Y-L.  The only thing that separates “be back later” from “talk to you later” is that the former suggests that the conversation currently taking place is not yet complete.  In other words, whereas TTYL means We’re done with this, BBL roughly translates to We’re done with this for now.


Unfortunately (Fortunately?), this whole discussion about which chatting acronyms are superior to or compatible with BRB will soon be moot.  Some would fairly argue that it already is moot.  The notion that you would feel compelled to communicate the idea that you are not available to be contacted via some form of digital chat already seems a bit antiquated.

We are slowly, for better or for worse, living our lives based on an overwhelming sense of omniavailability. We are available, always, and thus never feel as though we are “leaving” our conversations, even for a moment.

How can we BRB or even BBIAB if we are never really AFK?

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