According to freedictionary.com, laughter is apparently defined as the experience or manifestation of mirth, amusement, scorn or joy.
How this became the definition, I don’t know, and it’s hard to even find what the history of laughter is. However, at some point in the history of the human race, someone decided that we needed to come up with a sound that can forever be linked to all things hilarious.
Often, we laugh at things that are comedic, eye-opening or simply stupid. People say that you can’t just laugh when you're told to, or else it feels bogus — think about when someone cracks up at the terrible joke their boss made.
The point is that we laugh because something is truly amusing.
With the onset of technology, Facebook, Twitter, texting, etc., no longer is this idea applicable. In a Psychology Today article by Robert Provine, he describes how in order for us to translate the concept of laughter into text, we had to strip it “of its variation and nuance,” causing laughter to be a "regular series of short vowel-like syllables — usually transcribed as ‘ha-ha,’ ‘ho-ho’ or ‘hee-hee.’ These syllables are part of the universal human vocabulary, produced and recognized by people of all cultures."
This simple universalization of such an important emotion has minimized its value and transformed laughter into a simple, four-letter representation of something that shouldn’t be taken seriously. Although “haha” can still be used to dignify something that is actually funny, more often than not “haha” has become a synonym for deflecting what you actually mean to say. For example, look at this made-up conversation:
Person A: Hey, how’s it going?
Person B: I’m good haha how are you?
Person A: Haha, well I’m doing alright, I was wondering if you wanted to go on a date with me this Tuesday?
Person B: Haha, I’m not sure I can. It’s my friend’s birthday that night.
Person A: Ahh no worries, haha, another time
No longer does “haha” only characterize hilarity; it has become a way to play off your nervousness, awkwardness or the reality of the text you just sent. Don’t act like you haven’t seen or know people who do this — even I was a culprit of this for a long, long time.
With the internet and social media, we have become scared of honest interaction, and saying “haha” has become a cop-out for actually saying what you mean.
Laughter is a social vocalization that bonds people through humor and play, not a ruse to get us out of uncomfortable moments.
We need to speak, laugh and text with conviction, or else we will never take each other earnestly or trust the power of each word — spoken or texted.
So, stop using “haha” to disregard the sincerity in your text. Use it when there is actually something that makes you laugh. Of course, it’s still better than using “lol.”