Have you ever been told to “touch grass” after a heated internet fight? Don’t worry, you don’t need to go to your local park for this. Here’s what the phrase means and how you can use it properly.
“Touch grass” or “go touch some grass” is an internet idiom that essentially means “get off the internet and go outside.” People online use it as an insult when someone seems out of touch with reality, especially on social media. It’s also become a meme, with many image macros featuring images of people touching grass.
While the expression “touch grass” is a recent invention, it shares similarities with some common English idioms. It’s an online version of the phrase, “get your head out of the cloud,” which means “get with reality.” It’s also related to “get some fresh air”—however, “touch grass” is significantly more antagonistic. There’s also “get with the program,” which means acknowledging something is true.
The Origin of Touching Grass
While KnowYourMeme notes that there have been a few examples of this phrase on Twitter as early as 2015, it wasn’t until late 2020 and early 2021 that the term truly spread online. In fact, the earliest popular definitions for “touch grass” weren’t added to Urban Dictionary until 2021.
One of the biggest reasons this term became so popular was people’s prolonged internet and social media use due to the lockdowns. Since people couldn’t as easily access the outdoors, many spent days glued to a computer screen. This eventually led to “touch grass” becoming a popular comeback on Twitter, with users from various communities adopting the phrase.
Insults and Honest Feedback
“Touch grass” has three meanings, and unlike some other internet slang terms we’ve covered, the line between these three can get blurry.
On the one hand, “touch grass” can be a lighthearted, funny ribbing. It’s a way of telling someone that they’re “too internet,” emphasizing their obsession with things and teasing their unusual interests. It’s even a phrase that you can use with your friends. For example, if your friend tells you about how they managed to watch 60 TV show episodes in one weekend, you might say to them, “you need to touch grass.”
Touch grass might also be a response to unusual or antisocial behavior from people on the internet. For example, if you got a bunch of strange or overly angry comments on your recently uploaded video, you might post an image of these comments with the caption, “my viewers need to touch some grass.” Many Twitter users also use “touch grass” to call out people for harassment or rude behavior.
Lastly, “touch grass” can be a retort or comeback on platforms like Twitter and Reddit. In a way, telling someone to touch grass can be an “ad hominem” argument — where you directly insult someone instead of responding to their points. Some people on the internet use the phrase to shut down further discussion or suggest that someone doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
Many instances of this phrase online are somewhere between the three. It can be a joke about someone’s interests, a response to unusual behavior, or a direct insult — or all three simultaneously. Before you tell someone to “touch grass,” you should figure out which of these three your tone leans closes to. It might be best to avoid the term altogether!
The Black Hole of the Internet
Even though it’s meant as an insult, the idea behind “touching grass” and spending less time on the internet can be helpful.
Some people say that the internet has a way of distorting reality. When you’re on the internet for extended periods, your perception of things can get off balance. As a result, you might prioritize different things, spend your time in unusual ways, and get too worked up about minor issues. For example, some hardcore gamers miss sleep entirely!
A typical example of this effect is “raging” during a video game when you’re losing. Raging is much more common among players who spend excessive time in-game, which means they’re the most likely to feel a “warped” sense of reality. Other players will often tell ragers to “touch grass”—mainly as an insult, but also to push them to stop raging over the game.
If you’re interested in a simple way to curb your internet use, check out these four simple timers that can remind you to take breaks from your computer.
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