The original website was in French (it still exists, it’s called "vie de merde" or VDM), created in 2008 by Maxime Vallette, a young web entrepreneur and geek (a website editor) who identified a need, mostly but not only among the young, to share their bad experiences and failures. There are now versions in several languages. You don’t need a subscription to read the entries posted on the FML site, but if you want to post one yourself, you have to register and abide by the rules. First, your messages must start with “Today…” and end with “FML”, and because it’s a microblogging site, the number of characters is limited. Then, if your message isn’t written in intelligible English, it will be rejected. There is no place here for textspeak (lol and so on). A dose of humour is strongly recommended, especially if you want yours to be picked as one of the top FMLs.
FML is a UGC website, which means that the editorial content is generated by users. For the website editor, it’s both cheap and practical. It’s a highly interactive site, as users can share their views and comment on the FML posts. You can just click on the “like” button, or choose the response “I agree, your life sucks”, as was mostly the case with “Today I found out where a few of my favorite outfits went. My mother had taken them out of my closet, wrapped them and given them to my cousin as a gift. FML.” Another possibility is “You deserved it”, as with “Today, I had a big presentation to do at work, so I got up early and ran myself a bath. I woke up three hours later, extremely late, and still in the bath. FML”.
The website is said to receive over 1.7 million hits a day, and of course has an online store where you can get FML tee shirts, baseball caps, umbrellas, aprons and other stuff. As to the reasons why it is so successful, maybe it’s just that a problem shared is a problem halved. It’s also good to know that there are others out there having an even worse time of it. Much of the success, cruel as it may seem, is down to humour. Even if you don’t actively enjoy seeing someone else’s misery, it’s a way of staying positive, and it doesn’t have the side effects of antidepressants.
But there must be more to it than just revelling in others’ misfortunes. The site’s original creators have allowed its content to be used free of charge by geeks developing their own applications. Copies of the concept are everywhere, including the controversial “naming and shaming” variety such as lawyersfromhell (the British equivalent of which was closed down by the courts). These websites are surfing the same wave as FML, in that they attract visitors by recounting bad experiences, and they can be open to abuse. Even as a user, it’s never a good idea to share your extramarital narrow escapes on one of these sites, however hilarious.
Of all the so-called “humorous” websites out there, why, you may ask, am I so interested in this one? As far as I know, this is the first to have given us a new expression, not only widely used online and in texting but in real life too. FML has become one of those words that have spread from the internet into our everyday language.