Have you ever opened social media and realized that a complicated news story happened while you were away? That’s how it feels to be OOTL, or “out of the loop.”
Out of the Loop and in the Loop
OOTL and ITL stand for “out of the loop” and “in the loop,” respectively. In both of these phrases, “the loop” generally refers to being knowledgeable or aware of a topic, such as recent events. Being OOTL means that you’re ignorant about a particular subject, while being ITL means that you’re knowledgeable and a part of the conversation. Someone who isn’t ITL would therefore be OOTL.
The phrases that these two acronyms come from have been in the English lexicon for a very long time and have generally retained a similar meaning. OOTL is similar to other initialisms like LTTP and ELI5, which stand for “late to the party” and “explain like I’m five,” respectively. All of them indicate that you don’t entirely know or understand something and would like it explained.
On the other hand, being “in the loop” often means that you’re quite knowledgeable about a topic, or that you’re part of an exclusive conversation. It is similar to the colloquial phrase “in the know.”
A Brief History of OOTL and ITL
Unlike other internet acronyms that are known to have emerged in early internet chatrooms (IRCs) in the 1990s, the history of OOTL and ITL are less clear. The first definition for either term in the online repository Urban Dictionary is an entry for ITL in January of 2003 that reads “in select company.” The definition for OOTL came later, in 2006.
Part of the culture behind being “OOTL” and “ITL” is asking other people to explain something you’re not familiar with. With the rise of social media websites such as Reddit and Twitter, both acronyms have seen a rise in usage.
OOTL in Culture and News
If you own a smartphone, you’ve likely experienced going to bed early and waking up with dozens of news alerts and updates. When this happens, you become OOTL. News moves very fast in the digital age, so it is very easy to miss major news items completely.
This is the reason why being OOTL is such a common sentiment online. You’ve likely seen tweets of people saying that they’re OOTL, or out of the loop, on a huge story and asking their Twitter followers to help them catch up. The subreddit r/OutOfTheLoop, which has over two million members, is filled with curious users asking to be caught up on society’s biggest stories.
It’s not just news, too. Being “out of the loop” could mean that you haven’t seen a hugely popular Netflix show, or that you haven’t heard the #1 song on the charts.
OOTL in Personal Conversations
Besides the news, you can also be out of the loop in your personal life. You can be OOTL if you have not heard the most recent updates from your friends and family. For example, if your best friend has recently entered a relationship and neglected to tell you, you might tell them that you are OOTL.
You can also use OOTL to ask people to provide you updates about your life. You might text someone, “I feel OOTL, tell me what happened.” This has a similar meaning to the phrase “being caught up to speed.”
You can also feel OOTL in conversations in the workplace. If you suddenly found out that there’s a company-wide meeting that’s been scheduled for weeks, you would tell your co-workers that you were OOTL.
ITL as a Sign of Exclusivity
On the other hand, being “in the loop” or ITL can be a sign of exclusivity. If someone says that you are in the loop, you likely have secret or confidential information that not everyone knows. This enables you to participate in conversations that other people can’t.
For example, if you and a handful of your companions are planning a secret project together, you might ask whether someone else is “in the loop” before you spill the details to them. If you work in a large corporation, you could also say that your company’s leaders are ITL because they know everything about the organization.
ITL is related to the phrase “loop me in,” which means, “include me in the conversation.”
How to Use OOTL and ITL
There are a lot of ways to use OOTL and ITL. You can use OOTL when you feel like you don’t know about a major topic of discussion, while you can use ITL when you’re part of an exclusive conversation.
Here are a few examples of OOTL and ITL being used:
- “I missed a few days of work, so I’m OOTL. Catch me up.”
- “What’s this new act in congress? I’m so OOTL.”
- “Is Sara ITL? If she isn’t, we should probably explain the project.”
- “I’m so OOTL. I haven’t seen the movie everyone’s talking about.”