If you’ve been on social media or an internet message board in the last decade, chances are you’ve come across the acronym TFW. You may have seen it alongside a weird picture or attached to a funny anecdote. But what does TFW mean?
We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about TFW.
What Is TFW?
TFW is short for “that feel when.” It’s an internet term that lets the user frame a particular experience via the feelings they have when it happens.
Depending on who’s posting it, TFW can also mean “that feeling when” or “the face when.” These variations are similar to each other, though “that feel when” is the most commonly seen one in internet conversations.
The phrase or acronym is normally followed by a phrase describing the experience. Sometimes, it can also have an accompanying image depending on how it’s posted.
Using TFW Properly
You use TFW to describe an experience that you want the reader to relate to. Here are a couple of simple examples of TFW:
- TFW you’re getting to the good part of the video but it starts buffering
- TFW you find something you lost that was in your pocket all along
- TFW your favorite song comes on in the club
Since its inception, the use of TFW has evolved. While the above examples refer to pretty mundane situations, many people also use it to refer to extremely specific circumstances for comedic effect. For example:
tfw you’re the pope and you start listening to drake pic.twitter.com/iLLiYUINye
— David Grossman (@davidgross_man) September 15, 2015
Another typical use of TFW is to convey a painfully relatable experience. These uses can often be funny in a sad, ironic way.
- TFW she wants to see your abs but you have none
- TFW you take 2 seconds to reply but he takes 2 weeks to reply
- TFW you fall asleep during your haircut and when you wake up you’re bald
Some statements related to TFW are separate memes themselves. The term “tfw no gf” is short for “that feel when no girlfriend.” It refers specifically to the experience of not having a girlfriend and is normally accompanied by the image of a person that is sad or crying.
Over time, many people on Twitter and Reddit have opted to cut out the first two words entirely. You can use “when you” to frame your statement in exactly the same way as TFW. For example, you can say “when your 30-page paper is due in an hour and you’ve finished 3 pages.”
The History of TFW
TFW is believed to have originated alongside the “I Know That Feel Bro” meme. This is an image that originated from 4chan over a decade ago, depicting two “bros” hugging each other. It was used as a reaction to display solidarity with the experiences of another poster.
The drawing that is depicted above was frequently used in various threads as a response when someone conveyed a sad incident. These threads would normally start with “TFW.”
TFW likely became even more popular because of the rise of Twitter. At the time, Twitter still had a 140 character limit, which made abbreviations and acronyms widespread on the site.
Since then, TFW and I Know That Feel Bro have had multiple spin-offs and derivatives that have also become ubiquitous in internet culture.
Similar Internet Memes
The “that feeling when” meme isn’t the only internet term that lets you frame your reaction to some specific experience. Over the years, more and more terms and acronyms have popped up on various places on the internet. Here are several terms that are in the same wheelhouse as TFW.
- “Me IRL (Me In Real Life)”—This is a term that people use when a meme or image describes their current emotional state in real life. It is often used ironically, with the accompanying image being exaggerated or overdramatic. The subreddit “r/me_irl” is one of the most popular meme subreddits on the entire website, operating with the tagline “Selfies of the Soul.”
- “MFW (My Face When)”—This is widely believed to be taken from the same source as TFW. In practice, it works the same as TFW, except that you have to accompany it with the image of a reacting face.
- “TIFU (Today I F***** Up)”—This acronym originates from the popular subreddit of the same name. It refers to a situation where you mess something up very badly. Posts that use this acronym are typically written like “TIFU by…”
- “Nobody:”—This particular meme format has two parts. The first line is “nobody” or “no one” followed by blank space, which implies that no one asked for something. The second line is a person or group doing something that no one asked for. For example: “J.K. Rowling: Dobby voted against the Iraq war,” which is a joke on Rowling’s tendency to add onto the Harry Potter lore in unnecessary ways.
- “Me, Also Me”—This is a term that you use when you do two things that are completely contradictory with one another. For example, the first line could be “Me: I’m so full I can’t eat anything anymore.” You follow it up with “Also me:” and an image of someone chowing down on food.
Also, they don’t have similar meanings, but “FTW” and “WTF” have the same letters and are both widespread internet acronyms. FTW means “for the win” and is a term that originated from gaming. On the other hand, WTF means “what the f***,” a common swearing phrase used in reaction to something unexpected.
TFW You’re at the End of the Article
Unlike many internet slang terms that were popular nearly a decade ago, TFW endures and is still in widespread use today. If you’re interested in learning about the meanings of other popular internet slang terms, here are some of the trendiest ones you need to know in 2019.
One of the sites where these terms are commonly used is Reddit. If you’re unfamiliar with the site or just starting out, check out the best Reddit apps and sites for beginners.