You Say “SoLoMo,” I Say, “I Hate My Life”

Working in tech does weird things to your vocabulary. Five years ago, if you’d told me that I’d become someone who talks about whether they have the “bandwidth” to get something done or promising to “ping” you later, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here I am, finding the bandwidth to ping people — like it or not, you adopt the language of the people around you.

Still, you’ve got to draw the line somewhere. And for me, the phrase SoLoMo (short for social-local-mobile, if you’re lucky enough to have never heard it) crosses that line and outrages all decency and common sense.

When it first popped up, I assumed it was the latest feeble attempt to make “Socio Loco” take off and would die in a few weeks. But no, it seems to be catching on, and it’s even crept into a couple of TechCrunch headlines.

Why do I hate it so much? For one thing, it just sounds so ridiculous. “Soe-low-moe.” Wait, what? I’m convinced that the only way to say “SoLoMo” with a straight face is to literally stop thinking about the syllables coming out of your mouth or keyboard. Or perhaps you’ve heard it so often that you’ve become desensitized, which is basically the same thing.

I was also going to argue that it doesn’t mean anything, but that’s not entirely true. For example, blogger and analyst Greg Sterling defined it for Mashable as a more “mobile-centric” version of hyperlocal search, with “greater local precision”: “It’s about getting nearby information on demand, wherever you may be.” A little vague, but okay, it’s a definition.

What I object to, really, is the way everyone is seizing on the term as a way to automatically hype up an app as innovative and exciting, in the same way that “cloud” was slapped on everything a couple of years ago. Are you about to release the millionth local deals app? Call it SoLoMo! What about a reviews app? Do the same! An app that lets you find which of your friends are friending the friends of friends around you? Come on baby, do the SoLoMotion!!!

And I’m worried about what could happen if the reign of SoLoMo continues. In a few months, new startups will feel obligated to describe themselves this way, no matter what they actually do. “Oh, you’ve got a mobile social app? That’s so lame, bro. Don’t you know SoLoMo is where it’s at?”

Welcome to the brave new world of buzzword inflation.