An image of an early-2000s computer setup went viral, igniting millennial nostalgia.
The photo sparked a discussion about the changing nature of the internet and its slang.
People are saying phrases such as "be right back" are meaningless when you're always logged on.
But some people have suddenly realized that a specific piece of lingo seems to have faded online and are speculating about what it may reveal about our relationship with social media.
On December 19, an image of an early-2000s desktop computer blew up on X, formerly Twitter, as viewers looked back fondly on the early days of the internet.
One user racked up 11.8 million views of their own with a slightly bleaker take. They suggested the internet had evolved from a single space to "a terror that extends to everywhere" as you could no longer walk away from it.
sorry for being nostalgia baited but it was kind of nice where the internet was a single, solitary, unmoving place instead of a terror that extends to everywhere. you went to this specific spot to go to the internet. when you left the spot, you left the internet. it was a place https://t.co/CykSmj3qlw
— cal50 (@cal50) December 20, 2023
The post gained traction on TikTok, too, when a user who goes by @somefrogs.co featured the post as a backdrop to a video. She said that it made her think about how the internet had changed in the past 20 years and that, despite the benefits, there was value in not always being online. She also asked her viewers how they felt about it.
Multiple self-described millennials agreed the internet had gone from a space they would dip in and out of after school to something that's almost an extension of themselves.
In what may have been a throwaway comment, one user suggested this could be the reason the use of "brb" to mean "be right back" had seemingly disappeared.
"We used to say brb. We don't anymore. We live here now," they wrote, alongside an emoji with spiral eyes, often used to suggest disorientation.
It kickstarted a wave of recognition from TikTok users.
The reply, which is no longer available to view but was seen by Business Insider, received 26,800 likes and more than 130 replies, many of which agreed. Some wrote they had stopped saying "be right back" entirely online.
A 30-year-old TikToker named Sarah, who asked BI not to share her last name or TikTok account due to privacy concerns, posted a stitch to the video, which she has since made private following an overwhelming response. Responding specifically to the "brb" comment thread, Sarah said the concept was "blowing my fucking mind."
"I saw that comment and realized that I only ever say 'brb' in real life as a sort of relic," Sarah told BI, referencing the bygone era of AIM, an instant-chat service that launched in 1997 and became hugely popular in the early 2000s before it shut down in 2017.
It was common for people to use "brb" in chats when they had to step away from their computers or if they had to temporarily log off when someone else needed to use the computer or even the phone line, back in the days of dial-up internet.
Sarah said she had received some comments from users who still used the phrase online in the context of multiplayer gaming. But many more viewers appeared to agree the phrase was rarely used in social conversations online, given it's now rare we're ever not within arm's reach of a device we could use to message back.
In @somefrogs.co's comment section, others wrote that they felt similar phrases were also making fewer appearances, such as TTYL (talk to you later) and AFK (away from keyboard), as they too had become redundant since most people carried the internet in their pockets.
Maybe we need a new initialism for these deeply digital times.
BRHBIAO: Be right here because I'm always online.
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