Where does ywn come from?
The origin of ywn is commonly attributed to 4chan, where it emerged as a thread trend and gained popularity beginning in 2015 and earned its first Urban Dictionary entry in 2016.
In online threads, it is often stylized as >ywn, using the “greater than symbol” (or “meme arrow”), a 4chan convention that is variously used to show someone is making an insinuation, ridiculing another user, or is starting an anecdote.
As such, ywn often introduces a specific, often hyper-specific, life experience or longing the writer deems desirable. For instance, “>ywn make a pretty girl blush when you tell her you really like her and want her to be your girlfriend,” or “ywn will never feel this sense of duty and pride.”
Its intent is complex, though it generally conveys a sense of humor, suggesting a wistful if not nihilistic longing for something the user knows they can’t have or achieve in life. In this way, users will sometimes button their ywn with “Why live?” and dedicate entire threads sharing ywn scenarios.
Who uses ywn?
Ywn and >ywn see occasional use on social-media platforms, more commonly among young adults. Ywn and >ywn can also be issued ironically, to mock someone perceived as self-important. It can be used to tout oneself, showing off a quality or accomplishment to the exclusion of others.
The acronym is often accompanied by a picture of the longed-for object or a meme reaction expressing how the ywn makes them feel.
>ywn be north sentinelese and escape modernity why live
@ottovonschirekt, February, 2018
ywn lend your coat to your girl in the winter on the walk home together...
@X8GUTSHOT, February, 2018
>ywn be part of a generations old family restaurant, learning from ur parents &a [sic] grandparents and passing it on to ur kids why live
@IDIOT_TEEN, October, 2017