Don’t you love it when the self-appointed word police go ballistic over popular jargon that should be banned from the workplace or, better yet, from the entire human race? I know I do. That’s just what we all need, right? More words and phrases deemed unacceptable by the loud minority of thin-skinned whiners.

I was just reading an article where a politically correct pundit asked, “Why can’t people just say what they mean?” Really? How ironic can you get? The PC police pondering why we can’t be direct or speak our minds, then dictating what we can no longer say because they find it offensive or just plain annoying.   

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Look, I know it’s popular to knock popular jargon, but I have a confession to make. I like it. Always have. Anytime I can say or write four letters – ASAP – instead of, “I’d like that done as soon as it’s convenient for you to get up off your fat butt and actually do some work, my good man … with all due respect,” I’m a happy camper.

Granted, it is nauseating to hear self-important consultants try to sound smart while baffling their clients with all manner of techno babble and business school speak. But that aside, jargon works just as idiomatic expressions do: by capturing and oftentimes abbreviating a common meaning or sentiment that people quickly understand.

That said, there are times when jargon or labels can obfuscate the real meaning behind the words. We see that quite a bit these days, especially in technology circles. And while I wish to have no say in how, why, or when anyone uses these terms, I do think it will help if people actually understood what they really mean.

To that end, here’s a dictionary of popular tech terms, decoded.

Selfie. A picture, usually taken with the forward-facing camera of a smartphone, of someone with a Black Hole where his self-esteem and self-confidence should be. Also: a desperate attempt to get attention.  

Status update. A selfie, but with words. Also: Posting things about yourself online that nobody – including your friends, relatives, and old girlfriends – wants to know.

Groupthink. When otherwise smart people act collectively like idiots. Also: social collectivism, drinking the Kool-Aid, breathing each other’s fumes, lynch-mob mentality, the wisdom of crowds, talking points, drumbeat.

Web 2.0. The place where capitalism, individualism, common sense, and critical thinking go to die. Also: the devolution of the human race.

User-generated content. The strategy that made a handful of high-tech executives billionaires: by getting the entire middle class to do all their work for them, buy tons of gadgets and apps they can’t afford, and go broke in the process. Also: the Internet version of Reality TV.  

Open source. Free software developed by communities of Kool-Aid drinking hippie developers.

Reaching out. Spamming or stalking, as in “I thought I’d reach out to see if you had a need for any email lists” or “Thanks for reaching out, I’ll let you know if I have any interest.” Also: Connecting.

Personal branding. A bill of goods some self-proclaimed gurus sold to an entire generation: the doctrine that Millennials are the entrepreneurial generation, and that they’re special. Those who bought it are now just unemployed narcissists. Also: Me 2.0, Generation Me.

Social media marketing. The illusion and self-delusion of having a real job. Also: unemployed.

Social network. How a billion people waste their lives instead of actually having one. Also: a virtual network, meaning one that isn’t real.

Guru. The Internet version of someone who sells male enhancement products, miracle cures, nutritional supplements, homeopathic medicine, self-help books, motivational speeches, or snake oil. Usually self-proclaimed. Also: Uberguru.

Let’s have a conversation. The appearance of having an interest in talking about something while having no real intention of actually talking about it, let alone doing anything about it.

Bitcoin. How drug dealers and paranoid conspiracy theorists buy stuff.  

LGBT. The new M/F/H, except gender and disability equality have been replaced by more information on sexuality than any employer needs or wants to know. (When I graduated college in ‘79, all the job ads said “EOE M/F/H.” I racked my brain for hours trying to figure out what “H” stood for, but all I could come up with was “hermaphrodite.” My friends thought I was an idiot. Turns out, I was way ahead of my time. True story, NK.)

At the end of the day, just calling it like I see it. Ping me; we’ll do lunch, K? ;-)

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, executive coach, columnist, and former senior executive. He runs Silicon Valley-based Invisor Consulting where he advises executives and business leaders on anything and everything. Contact Tobak.

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