The UFSI Generation


The acronym “UFSI” (“unfit for social interaction”) surfaced on Twitter this Thanksgiving, on Thanksgiving Eve. It was Tweeted by Tao Lin and quickly reached 100+ Retweets:

At first glance the Tweet appears, in its seeming familiarity, somewhat not notable; one feels certain an UFSI-like acronym or idiomatic expression already exists. But, for some reason, one then realizes, UFSI is actually new — not a synonym or clever rephrasing of a pre-existing thing. When people haven’t wanted to interact IRL they’ve apparently been excusing themselves as tired, busy with work, “sick,” “not available,” or other socially acceptable — but, most times, indirect — reasons that are, at best, polite or tactful; at worse, perhaps, harmlessly dishonest. Actually, the most common excuse for not interacting IRL is probably simply not answering the text message, email, phone call, or — in its various forms — pretending “no one is home” (or telling so-and-so to tell so-and-so “I’m not here” or “I’m sleeping”).

But now there’s UFSI. The original Tweet was screenshotted and posted on Tumblr by the literary zine Pop Serial and has — without media coverage, to my knowledge — garnered around 350 notes, mostly over Thanksgiving weekend:

On Thanksgiving day, one day after the initial Tweet, Lin created a “pamphlet,” as he called it, in elucidation of UFSI’s function in internet chats (and, one presumes, what Lin views as the “correct” response when someone has stated they are UFSI: “sweet,” apparently):

Within 36 hours two UFSI-related Twitter accounts surfaced:

Then UFSI spread to Spain (and, probably, other European countries), where it became “el #ufsi,” at least to one person; to another, it was embraced as a kind of personal or existential version of the Occupy Wall Street movement (in combining the memes, said person expressed solidarity with the 1% most UFSI of humanity, which, interestingly, is perhaps the opposite, in terms of power and influence, at this point, of the 1% in the Occupy Wall Street movement):

A search of “UFSI” on Twitter is currently yielding a surprisingly abundant, varied, earnest, and vibrant return:

Girls have embraced UFSI:

Self-identifying sociopaths have embraced UFSI:

Is the Twitter/Tumblr generation the UFSI generation? Generation Y (known in its latest and perhaps final incarnation as “The Millennials”) and Generation Z (which is arguably currently-coming-of-age) are alike in that they both are nominally abstract; they could, in their lack of concrete reference, describe anything with equal accuracy. That their names are completely nonfunctional as communication (imagine Tweeting “I’m Y” or “I’m Millennial” in an effort to communicate something) is a direct indication of their actual nonexistence, of their contrivance. In contrast, UFSI, already apparently functional and thriving after less than a week, is naturally indicating itself — without articles in Time or Newsweek — to be what actually exists in people’s minds (and what, resultingly, is expressed on Twitter).

One could argue Generation Y/Z is the LOL generation or [any other acronym] generation. But “laughing out loud” has always existed. So has BRB and BBL and TTYL. Perhaps UFSI also has always existed, but not as strongly, and definitely not with such obvious, powerful, one-sided movement toward even more of itself for even more people (look up “hikikomori” for where America and Europe, then all of urban Earth, are likely headed). Generation Y/Z, characterized by internet-usage (the most obvious effect of which is increased UFSI), may finally, in the coming months or years, be given actual meaning and concrete definition — if not officially then apparently, via Twitter search and Tumblr notes — as the UFSI generation: the logical conclusion, in terms of social behavior, of the internet, the only medium, arguably, in which being “unfit for social interaction” isn’t a liability but a joke, an acceptable trait, a means to generational solidarity.

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