‘But first, let me take a selfie’: the tech slang that is now part of everyday language

tech slang selfie viral meme

When the Internet was still in its infancy, new terms had to be created to describe activities that no-one had done before. Today the Internet and technology are still rapidly evolving so new terms keep popping up daily. Here are some tech terms that were previously seen as slang, but have become so commonplace that they are now permanently embedded in everyday language:

Surfing the Web

Surfing the Web means browsing the Internet. This term was already coined back in 1992 by a blogger called Jean Polly. It is probably not used as much as before but it remains a classic and was likely the first term to make it into our everyday vocabulary.


A funny picture or video on the Internet that becomes part of popular culture by being shared quickly with other users, often with funny variations on the theme and a way to describe real-life situations. Examples of memes include Overly Attached Girlfriend, LOLcats, O RLY?, Crasher Squirrel and more.


Before the advent of the Internet a troll was a scary and not very loved fairy tale creature living under a bridge or in mountains. Nowadays a troll is a person who posts provocative and controversial comments on the Internet to provoke others to become angry or emotionally distressed, basically a bully.


No longer just used to describe an illness, it basically refers to something that has spread very quickly across the Internet. For example, a viral video is a video that has been watched and shared by a lot of people (often millions) within a short period of time. Gangnam Style by Psy, which has now been viewed on YouTube billions of times, is a perfect example of a video that has gone viral.

Text speak (or txt spk)

With the prevalence of instant messaging, text speak has become commonplace. It is the shortening of words to get the most amount of information across and, well, save time. Text speak has spawned a number of acronyms like LOL (laugh out loud), TMI (too much information), FOMO (fear of missing out), BFF (best friends forever) and TIL (today I learned).


If you message your friends on a regular basis you have no doubt used an emoji at some point or another. The word “emoji” has its origins in Japan and literally means “picture” (e) and “character” (moji). It is small colourful pictures meant to represent the sender’s feelings in real life and inserted alongside text. The most popular and well-known emojis are probably smiley faces. New emojis are constantly being created with users now being able to choose an emoji for almost any situation, and even objects such as planes, cars, and animals.


In 1987 a singer by the name of Rick Astley released a song called “Never Gonna Give You Up” which was very popular. Then in 2007 years after the song’s popularity has been all but forgotten it became the subject of an Internet phenomena. People would post a link with a misleading title which would then redirect them to a video of “Never Gonna Give You Up”. Rickrolling still continues to be popular with parades and sports enthusiasts being some of the “victims” of this harmless prank.


Clickbait is a link to an article that has a misleading or provocative title that encourages people to click on it. The article then turns out to have little or no relation to the title at all and oftentimes is a paid-for-advertisement.


A selfie is a photo that you take of yourself, usually on your mobile phone. These selfies often end up on social media and its popularity really took off with the advent of Facebook profile pictures.

The selfie phenomena has evolved and now includes spin-off terms such as duckface. The term duckface refers to the way in which people purse their lips together when taking selfies. And you guessed it, that face usually makes people look like they’re imitating a duck.


A lolcat is a picture of a cat or cats that’s superimposed with funny, usually grammatically incorrect text. Believe it or not, lolcats were already a thing back in the 1800s! In 1870 Photographer Harry Pointer would take photos of kittens in various humanlike situations (like riding a bicycle) and then add humourous titles to it.

Slacktivism and hacktivism

Slacktivism is something that most of us have probably been guilty of at some point. It is the belief that sharing, liking or retweeting a social cause online is the same as physically helping the less fortunate or donating to charity. It is the lazy, unproductive way of being charitable.

Hacktivism, on the other hand, is a much more hands-on activity than slacktivism. Hacktivism is the use of hacking methods to aid social or political change. It is often done by anonymous online groups.


This is simply the act of searching for something online, usually using the Google search engine. To tell someone to Google something, is to tell them to go look for the answer online.


No, it’s not referring to a freshwater fish with cat whiskers. To catfish someone is to fabricate an online identity to lure that person into creating a relationship with you. For example, a person can pretend to be a woman online but in real life they are actually a man. Oftentimes people will pretend to be younger than they are to prey on young children online.


The term derives from the actual editing software package called Photoshop. When an image or video is said to be Photoshopped it is meant that it had been altered using editing software. Usually, it is implied that the image or video is a fake, or has been manipulated to misrepresent what it truly is.

There are an endless amount of tech terms that are part of our everyday language and many more are being added daily. Here are some extra terms you might be familiar with:

  • Lagging
  • LAN
  • Tweeting
  • Unfriending
  • Smartphone
  • SPAM
  • Download/upload
  • Cyberbullying
  • Email
  • Hashtag
  • Blogging
  • Vlogging (a combination of video and blog)
  • Cyberstalking