19 Words That Didn't Exist Before Social Media

Tori Tornreviewed byIryna Andrus / more about Editorial Process14 min
Created: Feb 9, 2023Last updated: Jan 24, 2024
Social Media Terms

Raised along with modern technology and social media, don't raise any doubts that words associated with social media platforms have always existed in English. In fact, such a suggestion is false. The term "social media" is a neologism that occurred because people needed to give a name to their latest invention. That fact should make you realize that some words didn't exist before social media. So, let's take a look at must-know social media terms in English to eliminate a language gap that might occur between people of different generations. 

Social Media Terms That Occurred After Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok

The influence and input of social media platforms in our life are hard to overestimate. People discover new things on social every single day because they share their knowledge with the world almost in real-time. No wonder the language that we use also has been influenced by social media. For instance, different words for social media were coined in English first and got borrowed. That is why you can already be aware of some slang for social media. However, Promova still suggests you get deeper and learn some words that didn't exist before social media. 


Avatar is a crucial part of any social media account today. It is one of those things that help users identify profiles out of thousands of others. Have you already guessed what an avatar is? Avatar defines as a small profile picture of the account owner's choice that represents the profile on socials. It can be an actual photo of a person, a drawing, an AI-generated image, or a logo. Every account chooses its own form of identification. For instance, the Netflix profile on Instagram will have the brand logo as its avatar. And it doesn't matter that there are several official Instagram profiles of the streaming platform on social media, depending on the country. They all have the same avatar because that helps users find the accounts within seconds. In fact, the social media word "avatar" means "descent" from Sanskrit. 


This social media term comes from the verb "binge-watch," which means watching something rapidly. On its own, "bingeable" is an adjective that characterizes content that provokes the desire to watch all episodes or parts in rapid succession. The word has been around relatively recently. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the earliest documented use dates to 2013. For instance, "Wednesday" on Netflix is a bingeable TV show. 

Cancel culture

The social media phrase "cancel culture" has roots in early-2010s Tumblr blogs but became more popular on Twitter and Instagram in the following years. "cancel culture" means a cultural boycott of a particular public figure, brand, or company in any industry because of their unacceptable actions or statements. The growth in using the phrase happened in 2016 and 2017 on Black Twitter. After that, the term has become even more popular. According to Google Trends data, the search interest in the phrase "cancel culture" occurred in the second half of 2018 and early 2019. In addition, TikTok brought a new wave of interest to the social media term "cancel culture." 


It's no brainer to guess the meaning behind the word "Instafam." But it's vital to understand where it comes from for educational purposes. So, "Instafam" is a neologism that occurred due to social media development. The term occurred because of blending two already existing words together. "Instafam" is a portmanteau of "Instagram" and "family." So, it means a community of followers on a social media platform that a particular influencer or celebrity sees as very close and treats like a family. 


Here is another example of a neologism that didn't exist before Instagram. Instagrammable is a new way to determine whether something is photogenic. The suffix -able means "relevant or suitable to." So, the term describes something or someone visually attractive enough that it deserves posting on social media in general, not necessarily on Instagram. 


Technically, the term "followership" existed before social media because it was coined in the 20th century. However, back then, it had a different meaning. Today, people see followership as one kind of relationship between people. There is friendship, partnership, leadership, intimate relationship, and even situationship. Social media users coined the term followership to define the followers' connection to their following. 


Hashtags exist as long as social media runs. They serve as a rubric indicator on the platforms. By adding a hashtag to your publication, you mark it as part of the specific topic. The social media users started implementing hashtags in their posts in October 2007, when San Diego resident Nate Ridder posted about the ongoing wildfires in the area with the hashtag #sandiegofire. However, the social media term "hashtag" was coined in a blog post in August 2007. And it wasn't until July 2009 that Twitter officially made hashtags an essential platform feature. #englishwithpromova

Leave on read

The collocation "leave on read" was added to Urban Dictionary in 2016. The number of people who noticed that their messages were read but the recipient decided not to bother themselves with an answer got huge. So, users felt a necessity to define such behavior on socials with a neologism. Today, the social media phrase "leave on read" is used not only on socials but in real life as well. The term means to ignore. 


Twitter has spawned many words, but some folks don't ponder that the term won't exist without the social media platform. A retweet is one of the basic social media terms coined because of Twitter. It can be used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it means a previously existing Twitter publication that another account has shared. The verb that describes the action of sharing someone's tweet is also called a retweet. 


The fascinating fact about the selfie is that the one was taken for the first time a long time before people came up with the term for the meaning. An amateur chemist and photography enthusiast from the US, Robert Cornelius took the first self-portrait photo in 1839. But the word "selfie" was shaped only in 2002, when an Australian man, Nathan Hope, posted a picture of himself with the caption, "sorry about the focus, it was a selfie." And the star was born at that moment. In 2013 "selfie" made its way to the Oxford Dictionary because it gained massive popularity on social media. Today there is even a holiday dedicated to selfies - National Selfie Day. 


Here is another example of the social media word that formed thanks to Twitter. It took two years to invent this word after Twitter was launched in 2006. The term "tweeps" refer to Twitter users. It's a blend of the words Twitter and people. 


Back in the days, the word "viral" meant something contagious, like a virus. However, in the digital era, the definition of the term slightly shifted. In social media lingo, the adjective describes the content that gets quickly and widely spread on socials. 


Social Media Words: Acronyms Of The New Era

Did you think communication via social media platforms couldn't get any faster? Wrong! To keep up with the rhythm of rapid conversations and shorten frequently used terms, social media users came up with acronyms. As convenient as acronyms are, they quickly become a part of social media terms. Folks loved the idea of merging several words and simplifying them into famous social media words that are more effortless in use. We are about to look at the most used words for social media that happened to become an inseparable part of the modern English glossary. 


Decoding: direct message

Example: Is it okay if I dm you the pic later? 

It's hardly possible that you haven't heard of the social media word "dm." The term means exchanging messages on any social media via the feature of direct messages implemented on social platforms. In fact, Facebook came up with the concept of "Private/Personal Message," known as PM. However, thanks to Twitter, social media users got DM. Later, Instagram made the term insanely popular. According to Google Trends, "dm" had been peaking in 2020. Today, the term can be a noun, a verb, or a part of a phrase. Thus, we have dm as a section with direct messages on social media, dm as a verb that means to reach out through private messaging and to slide into dms which defines as asking someone out or just casually texting via direct messages. 


Decoding: for you page

Example: Why is it so tricky for gardening videos to appear on my FYP?

This social media acronym is a unique term that can be applied only to one social media platform – TikTok. "FYP" is a specific page on TikTok where the platform's algorithms pick and show you the content that would be relevant and most likely enjoyable, especially for you. In 2016, TikTok just appeared as an app with funny music clips and dancing. So, it took quite some time for the term to become popular. 

"FYP" became popular when the pandemic of COVID-19 hit the world and made people stay home almost 24/7 for their safety. Out of boredom, people downloaded TikTok and helped it evolve into what it is now. To promote the video and make it go viral on TikTok, users used the hashtag "FYP," which claimed to be a real deal breaker then. Oddly, #fyp still remains in its position in video promotion and keeps the lead as the most widely used hashtag on the entire TikTok.


Decoding: makeup artist

Example: I beg you to give me the contact of your MUA. They did a terrific job covering that redness. 

The social media term "MUA" stands for makeup artist. It originated in the makeup industry in the 1990s when magazines started shortening "makeup artist" to emphasize who did the job for a specific photo or the whole shoot. So why, then we consider it a part of social media slang? Because it wasn't used among beauty lovers until 2017 when a Maybelline New York marketing campaign in collaboration with a beauty influencer Manny Gutierrez, who goes by Manny MUA on Youtube, made the consumers discover "MUA" as a word. Since then, people have started to use the term as a hashtag on Instagram and other social media and tag which did their makeup in posts with it. 


Decoding: original content

Example: By sending this message, I inform you that the video with bees is my OC, so you can't use it for your page for free. 

The acronym "OC" has several different meanings. However, we are interested only in the one related to social media. So, when viewed through the lens of social media platforms, OC stands for "original content." By that, people understand that the post, photo, or video text is an original creation, and all the rights belong to the author. The term meaning the original content dates back to 2009. Many people on socials claim their content to be OC even if they hoped into the trend. However, creating a trend can be seen as a CO if it was built from scratch. 


Decoding: outfit of the day

Example: This is my OOTD, simple and classy. 

OOTD is one of the social media's most popular and long-living trends. This term means outfit of the day. What day? Any day, it doesn't have to be a look for a special event or a major celebration. In 2010, Gen X started showing what they would wear on a regular day on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and YouTube. The aim was to claim themselves stylish and gain more followers who are interested in fashion. As black never goes out of style, the OOTD remains to evolve and stay one of the biggest trends. It became a famous hashtag used to search for inspiration in trendy outfits. OOTD continues to live on and thrive today as crazy. It even has its own holiday. National #OOTD Day has been celebrated on June 30th since 1028. 


Decoding: Real-Life Retweet

Example: What you've just said deserves RLRT. 

RLRT is a Twitter post based on something so incredible or blow-minding someone said in real life. A person's statement impressed you so much that you had to share it with members of Twittersphere. Twitter might not be that popular as a social media platform in your country. However, in the US and internationally, that's the easiest and quickest tool to share and spread a short message to the world. Many different social campaigns originated because of RLRT and Twitter itself. 


Decoding: throwback Thursday


TBT means throwback Thursday, when people share old photos or videos on socials because of nostalgia. According to Vox, the term originated from the hashtag used by blogger Mark Halfhill in 2006. It appeared on Instagram only in 2011, when some guy named Bobby made a post with a shot of Hot Wheels toy cars. People liked the sneak peeks from someone's past, so they started sharing them in posts often. More than 580 million publications have the hashtag #TBT. And just to be safe, we will mention that you can share content with #TBT only on Thursday. Otherwise, people see it as dumb. There was a time someone forgot to post on Thursday, so they had to come up with a new hashtag, #FlashbackFriday. 

How To Learn Social Media Words And Phrases With Promova

To achieve English proficiency, you must keep up with learning new words. Grammar in any language is a steal and has not evolved over the past decades at all. On the contrary, the number of words in English keeps growing accordingly to how the world and society develop. For instance, the development of social media platforms provoked the emergence of new words. A part of the glossary that we cannot imagine our life today would not exist if social media were never invented. 

But if the world changes so rapidly, how to follow all the updates in the English lexicon? Download and get on the Promova language learning platform. It is your best assistance in expanding English vocabulary and improving well-rounded English skills. 

You can work on your vocabulary using the Promova app, where you can find hundreds of bite-sized English (and not only) lessons for any level. Not only do we give our learners the essential glossary to build a solid foundation for further real-life communication in English. We also follow trends and up-to-date topics and carry on the neologisms that appear in language as it evolves. You can see how the English lexicon developed over the past few decades and learn those words and phrases that remain in English today. 90s slangvocabulary from the early 2000s, or Gen Z vocabulary – we have to learn it all. And social media terms won't be an exception. 

Promova is a one-stop tool for learning English through English. However, if you feel that learning the language using the bite-sized lessons is not enough and you are craving more, you can always sign up for one of the Promova tutoring programs. We work exclusively with certified English teachers with several years of experience who regularly improve their teaching methods and overall qualification. Any topic you are interested in will be covered during the class. Your tutor will teach you the way that suits you best, so you can comprehend information and improve your English skills in no time. 

In addition, we suggest you join our free Conversation Club, read our blog and follow us on social media. The more you expose yourself to English, the faster and better results you'll get. 


Living in a digital era alone might not be easy for everyone because of the modern technology and vocabulary we have to keep up with. However, the real challenge begins when it's time for you to learn all of the social media rems in English to feel included in the conversations and daily online life of English speakers. After reading this article, you must not have problems with social media words. Don't worry if you didn't manage to remember all of them from the first attempt. Acquiring new vocabulary might be a challenging process. Instead of beating yourself up, you should try going on socials and making all the latest social media phrases settle in your head so you can recognize and use them effortlessly in the future. 


Why do some social media terms get forgotten with time?

Time flies fast, so some social media terms can become outdated. The new words come to replace those that became irrelevant with time. The main reasons for that are the rapid changes in the world and social media platforms themselves and the unique perception of both by the new generation. People create new terms for social media relying on trends and absolute necessity. If Gen Z feels FOMO in terms of expressing themselves on socials, they will come up with new words and make the entire platform, for instance, TikTok, follow their lead. 

Are the names of the social media platforms neologisms?

As we've mentioned before, different neologisms are distinguished by how they were coined. Names of famous characters and brands can become neologisms if there is such necessity and foundation in developing social life and culture. Because social media occurred in people's lives as a new phenomenon, the names of the platforms naturally turned into verbs, adjectives, and nouns, defining meanings that didn't exist before the social media boom. For instance, the verb "to tweet" comes from Twitter, and the adjective "instagrammable" originated from Instagram. Also, people often use the word TikTok, bearing in mind videos posted on TikTok and not the social media platform itself. 

Why are some adults unfamiliar with social media slang words?

For the younger generation, meaning Zoomers, of course, it is shell-shocking that some people have no clue what social media slang words mean. However, there is nothing twisted about it. Moreover, it is natural that some individuals stay outside of the words associated with social media. There are two main reasons why that happens. First, people should at least use social media platforms to keep up with all social media lingo terms. If they aren't active users, they won't feel a necessity to operate the words they don't need. So, stop giving your grandparents a lip for not knowing social media vocabulary. Second, social media trends and words change so rapidly that you must spend a lot of time on social media. They should become a part of your life at some moment. Knowing or not knowing the social media slang reveals whether you belong to certain social groups. So, it can make communication more informal and chill among your peers or lazy and uneducated in high-class society. 

Would popular social media words still occur if social media itself never existed?

No, they would not. Neologisms are formed in the language only when there are favorable conditions and environments for new words to occur. For example, social media terms exist exactly because of social media platforms. People would not need them in another case. 



Kai - kai Jan 18th, 2024
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this article.
PromovaJul 25th, 2023
English learners can utilize social media to share their thoughts, ideas, and writings. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram allow for shorter posts, while platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn provide space for longer content. By regularly posting in English, learners can practice their writing skills, and through engagement from followers or language exchange partners, they can receive feedback on their language usage, grammar, and overall communication.
Anna2003Jul 25th, 2023
How can english learners leverage social media to practice their writing skills and receive feedback on their language usage?