How To Understand Social Media Acronyms


Hey, it’s Ryan, and today, I’m talking about social media acronyms!

Let’s start with what an acronym is! An acronym is simply an abbreviation using the first letter of each word of a phrase!

For example: USA is an acronym of United States of America!

There are dozens of acronyms commonly used on social media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and online forums like Reddit. In this lesson, I’ve assembled 23 of the most common social media acronyms, and will give examples of how to read them, and where to use them! 

So if you’re hoping to participate in online conversations in English fluently and naturally, make sure you practice all the examples!

Alright, let’s get after it!

I want to start with some abbreviations that you should avoid! Using these makes you look like a child, immature, or completely ‘out of touch’ with the feeling that they create!

Avoid using:

U in place of you

R in place of are

UR in place of you’re or your

So let’s start with the common ones you probably know! 


It’s go time!

Numbers 1 and 2.

Jk and lol. These are widely used online and sometimes in person!

Jk = just kidding, and is used when being playful or making a sarcastic comment.

For example: “You look like a turtle today haha jk :)”

Mostly written.


Lol = laugh out loud.

Lol is used when something is only a little funny! In recent years many people have even started pronouncing this! So instead of saying “L-O-L,” sometimes you will hear it spoken as a word like “Lull.”

It also has a few written and spoken variations which include 




You don’t actually need to laugh to use any of them. They are all useful to simply express slight humor. If you want to express actual laughter, use CAPS or a lot of ha’s. 

Spoken and written.


Number 3: DM. 

A DM is a direct message! This a message that goes into the inbox of social media like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. A common expression with DM is “to slide into someone’s DMs” which means to write a message directly to someone. This expression usually has a flirtatious meaning. 

Spoken and written.


Most Common on Reddit

Number 4: AMA

Go ahead, AMA…ask me anything! This is a very common acronym found on forum sites like Reddit, and even some videos with interactions between viewer and creator! You will usually see it used like this:

“I’m a billionaire, AMA..”


“I have 20 kids, AMA..”

Then the viewers will ask questions, and the creator will answer!

Spoken and written.


Number 5: tl;dr

This is another common acronym found on Reddit or places with extended writing. It means “too long; didn’t read.” Basically, it is a short summary of a very long text! You will find this at the beginning or end of whatever it summarizes. For example:

Imagine I write 8 paragraphs about elections in USA. At the very end I could put..


The US government should reevaluate the election process because the current system does not give equal power to every vote.’

This would tell the basic idea of my 8 paragraphs! 

Mostly written, rarely spoken.


Number 6: ELI5

Another Reddit specialty! ELI5 means “Explain Like I’m 5 (years old)”

People use this when asking questions that have difficult answers. So if they explain like you’re 5 years old, then the answer must be simple and easy to understand! Let’s look at this example:
ELI5: How do single-celled organisms accomplish functions such as detecting, eating, and digesting other organisms?

By writing ‘ELI5:’ in front, it means you want the answers to be clear and simple, no technical or special language! 

Only written.


A Few Acronyms for Twitter

Number 7: ICYMI

This one is popular on Twitter, and it means: “In Case You Missed It.” This phrase is used before a sentence you think is important that other people may have not heard! It is used like this:
“ICYMI: Flights to Europe are suspended until next Friday.”


“ICYMI: NASA has discovered water on Mars.”

This acronym helps some recognize that there is likely important information to know! 

Only written.


Number 8: IMO/IMHO

“In My Opinion/In My Humble Opinion”

This one might be losing popularity, but it is good to know it! It is used before a perspective you want to share.

“McDonald’s has the best french fries imo.”

“Imo summer is the best season!”

Only written.


Popular in SMS and Texting Platforms

Number 9: btw

“By The Way” is a phrase used to add a final thought to something! So if I am telling a friend about weekend plans, and finish talking, I could say “Oh! Btw, we are meeting at 8pm.” 

Another example:

“Make sure you bring a jacket! And btw, do you have gloves?”

Using btw tells the reader that there is a final piece of information they need to know! 

Only written.


Number 10: hmu

This acronym means “hit me up.” 

In case you didn’t know “to hit up” is a slang verb that means to talk with someone! So when you write ‘hmu’ it means “hey, let’s talk later.”


“Alright man, hmu later.”

“Sounds good brother. Hmu after you get home.”

This is mostly used between friends! 

Written only.


Number 11: lmk

“Let Me Know.”

This acronym is common in the final sentence of a message or conversation! It basically tells the reader to give you more information about something. For example:

“Sounds good to me. Lmk when you will arrive..”

“lmk if you want the book or not.”
Written only.


Number 12: tbh

“To Be Honest”

This one means that you honestly believe in something, even if others do not. You will write this at the beginning or end of a sentence! Let’s look at a few examples:
“Tbh, I don’t like the perfume you wore today.”

“I really don’t want to go to John’s house this weekend tbh”

Using tbh is a way of showing the reader that you know what you’re saying might be controversial, but you still want to express your feelings. 

Almost always written.


Number 13: omw

“On My Way”

This one is a casual way to say that you are coming! 

For example:

“Omw. be there in 10 minutes.”

“I’m omw right now.”

Written only.


Best For Gaming

Number 14: afk

“Away From Keyboard”

Use this when you need to leave your computer for any reason! This tells other users that you will not be active or responding because you are not at the computer! Let’s look at a few examples:
“Afk 5 minutes.” – This means you will be away for 5 minutes!

“Hey guys, im afk for a second…need to pee.”

“I think Jasper is afk; he is not moving!”

Spoken and written.


Number 15: brb

“Be Right Back”

This acronym is used when you will be afk for a very short time! If I am in a voice chat with friends, I can say or type “brb” to let them know I am leaving for a moment!

Brb…grandma is calling”

“Hey I need to get my food. Brb

Mostly written, occasionally spoken.


Number 16: gg

“Good game”

After any round of games, especially video games, people will say the letter ‘g’ two times! This is a friendly way to end a game and show sportsmanship. Whether you win or lose, simply writing ‘gg’ after the game ends is good etiquette.


“Gg everyone.”

Spoken and written.


Other Useful Social Media Acronyms!

Number 17: wbw, tbt, fbf

“Way-Back Wednesday”, “ThrowBack Thursday”, “FlashBack Friday”

These are most common on Instagram, and are used to talk about something from the past!

Way Back = Far in the past

Throwback = Remembering something from the past

Flashback = An image from somewhere in the past, kinda like dejavu!

The are mostly used as hashtags: #wbw, #tbt, #fbf

Written. Only spoken in the full version (not WBW, TBT, or FBF)


Number 18: GOAT

“Greatest Of All Time”

I’ve started to see this used for anything that people really love, but it formally was used to talk about the best athlete ever in a sport. Some people call Michal Jordan the GOAT of basketball. Some people call Roger Federer the GOAT of tennis!

“I think Elvis is the GOAT of Rock and Roll!”

Written and spoken.


Number 19: ftw

“For The Win”

A way to add extra energy to a statement. Sometimes genuine, but can also be sarcastic.

Ryan: Volleyball is fun.

Foofy: Yes! Volleyball ftw!

By using ftw, Foofy is showing that he is very excited about volleyball! 

Only written.


Social Media Acronyms With Bad Words!

Number 20-23: social media  Acronyms with bad words!

Wtf, gtfo, af, fml

These 4 acronyms are pretty common, and even though they use the F-word, it is good to know what they are!

Wtf = what the F***. Used to express anger, surprise, or confusion!

“Kyle is coming to Europe!? WTF??!”

Usually written, sometimes spoken (as a joke).


Gtfo = Get the F*** out. Used when you want someone to go away.

“That player is so annoying. Just gtfo!”

Only written.


Af = as F***. Used as an intensifier! 

Man, I am tired af!

That movie is scary af!!

Written and spoken.


Fml = F*** My Life. Used to express self-pity.

My dog pooped in my bed. Fml.

Only written.


Final Thoughts..

Well, there you have it! 23 social media acronyms that can help you navigate and participate online! Which social media acronym was new for you? Which one will you start using? Lmk in the comments below!

So that wraps up today’s lesson! I hope you liked it! And if you’d like to continue on your English journey, check out one of these other fun lessons HERE


Picture of Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

Gabby Wallace, M.Ed TESOL

About the Author
Gabby Wallace is the Founder of Go Natural English, where you can quickly improve your confidence speaking English through advanced fluency practice. Even if you don't have much time, this is the best place for improving your English skills. Millions of global intermediate - advanced English students are learning with Gabby's inspiring, clear, and energetic English lessons. Gabby has a Masters Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from Boston University and 20+ years experience helping students become fluent through her online courses and membership program.

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