We all have them.
You know, those words you can’t help repeating all the time. In response to everything. Not just online. In real life. In almost any informal situation.
“You know,” “same,” “yeah,” “fam,” “oh well,” “whatever,” “okay” — yeah, those words.
For me, it’s (currently) “same.”
I used to refer to these phrases as my “things.” They were everywhere — from my Facebook messages to my texts to my tweets to even my Tumblr posts. Mini-fads of speech within my personal world that would eventually fade away given enough time.
But I had never really thought of them as having an official name in my mind.
One day, however, I was introduced to the concept of “chat tics,” a term coined by my friend @JonathanWonggg. “Chat tics” referred to these “things” precisely — these mini-fads, popularity waves of single words or phrases within my world of speech, particularly online.
I was excited when I finally found a phrase to describe these “things” I had. Having a name for them just made them feel more legitimate, and I felt as though it justified my love for them in the face of my friends (who, if you’re wondering, hate these phrases).
But I’ve come to realise that there are other reasons why I love my chat tics so much — mainly, this:
Chat tics are conversational comfort objects.
In case you’re not familiar with the idea of a comfort object, think back to when you were a kid. That teddy bear that stayed by your side, day and night. That torn-up blanket that you had to bring with you everywhere or else. It was never really clear why these objects held such importance to you, but they just were important. They brought a sense of familiarity in whatever unfamiliar world you had to venture into — whether it was outside the house, to a new family friend’s house, or to the school on that dreaded first day.
Chat tics provide me the same sort of familiarity.
How, you ask? It’s just a word. A phrase. Not even a memorable phrase — just one I happen to really, really enjoy saying all the time.
If you’ve ever been at a loss for how to respond to someone, you understand how.
Whether it’s not quite hearing (or understanding) what the person actually said, hitting a brick wall in terms of creative responses, or simply just not knowing how to react in a way that will keep the conversation going, chat tics are there to save you.
You didn’t hear what the person said? That’s okay.
They probably said something you can identify with.
Sometimes you end up identifying with a malfunctioning fold-out chair by accident, but it’s a great way to lighten the mood.
You don’t know how to respond to a funny story? That’s okay.
They probably weren’t looking for a real response besides laughter.
Sometimes you end up identifying with dying goose noises, but it gets a laugh out of them, which really is the end goal.
You don’t know how to respond to keep a conversation going? That’s okay.
They probably just said something that was hard to respond to anyways.
… And sometimes, in that case, “same” just doesn’t cut it.
Which brings me to my final point: why I need to stop saying “same.”
No matter how much I love my chat tics at times, they are the equivalent of nuclear missiles to good conversation.
Each person I have the chance to talk to is different in many ways, and I try to make sure that each conversation is different as well. However, responding consistently with a certain tic yields similar answers among all my friends, no matter how different they are.
“You need to stop saying that!”
Or worse yet, the death glare.
Chat tics make it seem as though I naturally enjoy giving uniform replies to everyone whom I converse with. That, to some extent, I’m just a robotic person who automatically responds the same way to everyone.
Which, of course, isn’t true. (Or so I’d like to think.)
Being simple one-word phrases, chat tics are almost the epitome of one-reply-fits-all in conversation. Their versatility as a reply is only their undoing — the conversation’s undoing — my undoing — in the end.
And it’s because of this that I recognize I need to let go of my chat tics.
Not “let go of” as in “never touch these words again,” but “let go of” as in “moderate myself.” Find a happy medium. And if finding a happy medium means temporarily banning these words to broaden my vocabulary, then so be it.
Like that old teddy bear that sits in the corner of my closet now, just because I say goodbye to these words in normal conversation for now doesn’t mean I have to say goodbye to them forever. My teddy bear still brings me comfort. These words can still do the same sometime in the future, when I’m not as obsessed with them.
@Chat Tics: It’s not you, it’s me. I’m sorry, because I still love you. Maybe one day we’ll be together again. Maybe one day I’ll find the perfect situation for us to be together again. Until then, in the immortal words of Gabriella Montez, I gotta go my own way.