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What Does “IRL” Mean? Definition and Examples

What Does “IRL” Mean? Definition and Examples

If you’ve ever rummaged through one of the thousands of online communities like Reddit, 4Chan or 9Gag, you might have realized that you have unknowingly stepped into a black hole fueled by recycled memes, conspiracy theories and internet slang. This is how the widespread use of internet acronyms was born.

This specific lingo rapidly spread from the web to our mobile phones, and became a part of our chat habits. For all the longtime users, deciphering most of this language has become something of a second nature. But the uninitiated might find it difficult to understand the many ways internet dwellers and texting addicts attempt to shave fractions of seconds off their reading and keystroke time.

That being said, with all due respect to JK, IDK and BRB, one of the most widely-used internet acronyms is: IRL.

What does IRL mean?

IRL is an acronym that stands for the phrase In Real Life.

It indicates that we are referring to the physical world (or persona, perspective, etc.) versus the online/virtual world (or persona, perspective, etc.).

Examples of “IRL” used in a sentence

In many cases, IRL is used (instead of spelling out the whole phrase it stands for) in order to reduce the sentence by a few keystrokes—with the simple belief that if you type less, you save time. You’ll commonly see IRL appearing in place of the phrase in real life like this:

  • That musician isn’t as handsome IRL.

  • I met Danny Devito at the mall today; he’s such a nice guy irl.

  • Me on Instagram and me irl, are two very different people.

How to use “IRL” in an (online) conversation?

To start, it’s important to mention that while younger generations have begun using internet acronyms in their daily conversations—in other words, they use them IRL— they are typically meant to be informally typed, not spoken. This is why it's recommended to keep the use of IRL and other abbreviations for your texting apps (WhatsApp, Messenger, Tinder, etc.) and avoid them in more formal types of writings.

IRL is commonly typed without punctuation. It can be written in both all caps and no caps (IRL or irl)—the choice, as with most internet acronyms, is completely up to you.

The trend of “IRL” discussions in online communities

Besides text messages, you can see the acronym IRL popping up a lot in online forums and communities today. Used in an ironic and amusingly self-deprecating way, the phrase “me IRL” serves as a commentary on the lunacy or ridiculousness of one’s own life or situation. It is often associated with a specific image or video that somehow represents who the person actually is, beyond the screen and keyboard.

Many of these funny pictures became viral internet memes. Here are some classic examples:

Meme example: "When there's a dog at a party, me irl"

Meme example: "I can't do it, me irl"

Meme example: "Me IRL vs me on Instagram"

Other texting and internet abbreviations

Texting apps and internet forums are playgrounds where users invent and throw at each other wildly creative abbreviations. Here are some of the most used today:

TL;DR: Too long; didn’t read

When the text that follows will be a summary of the longer version above it.

DW: Don’t worry

“Everything is fine, DW.”

TTYL: Talk to you later

A classic instant message/text response one might write to someone who’s leaving their phone/keyboard.

IDK: I don’t know

When you simply don’t know the answer there’s no better way to say it than being honest.

TBH: To be honest

Talking about honesty, use this one when you want to clarify that what you’re about to say is something you plan on being truthful about. In certain cases, it can be used to express a personal opinion that you know might disappoint the person you’re speaking to.

SMH: Shaking my head

Used in the context of shaking your head in disapproval or self-criticism, or to indicate that something is so not funny, it’s funny. “I can’t believe I just did that, smh.”

IMO: In my opinion

When you want to clarify that your comments are rooted in your perspective.

BRB: Be right back

“BRB, I’m going to grab a snack.”

JK: Just kidding

“Don’t be offended, I was JK.”

OMW: On my way

Use this acronym to let someone know that your journey to meet them has begun.

Want more? Check out the top 50 text abbreviations and internet acronyms in 2020.

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Jason Wien, ADI Writer at Wix

Jason Wien, ADI Writer at Wix

Born in Florida, raised in New Jersey, schooled in New York, and currently based in Tel Aviv. Jason is a former Tech Recruiter but left all that behind for good weather, dog beaches and words like sababa and shawarma.

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