TBH sounds pretty familiar and it should mean To Be Honest, right? Well, the age of social media has given birth to a rich vocabulary of internet lingo and TBH certainly makes that list. You will see “TBH” thrown around frequently on various social media posts, especially on Instagram. It is usually used by teens and young adults. However, instead of being rude or direct about something, it is used to comment something nice on a social media post.

To be Honest or Heard

While the abbreviation of To Be Honest gained traction during the late 90s, its origins are closely linked to the culture of text messages, internet forums, and internet relay chat. It is used at the beginning of a sentence or at the end, to be frank about something or someone. With the evolution of the internet, the abbreviation has also evolved to be usually used for hating on something or being rude to someone. The following instances may drive the point:

  • “TBH, I hate Cyberpunk 2077”
  • “TBH, I think the reboot of the Ghostbusters movie was absolute garbage”
  • “TBH, I don’t like your taste in music”

For a change, you can also use the abbreviation to promote positivity.

  • “TBH, I think you have more courage than you know”
  • “TBH I think you should give yourself more credit”

While this meaning is the accepted norm among most people, TBH lives another life among teens. They often use it as an abbreviation for “To Be Heard”. Teenagers use it for asking about blunt opinions on their own social media posts. The opinions may be humorous, complimentary, or even hurtful, like the colorful personalities of teenagers.

TBH meaning on Instagram

Apart from its regular meaning of To Be Honest, teenagers often use TBH like their own secret currency. For instance, a teenager may ask for likes on their profile picture with the title “Like for a TBH”. It’s used as a noun. You’ll often see comments on posts that say the same with some variations – “TBH for TBH”, “I’ll give you a TBH” and so on. It means that if you give a like, comment, or leave a compliment on their picture, they will leave a TBH on your post. You may receive “TBH, I love your makeup” or “TBH, I love your hair”.

This trend confuses boomers and millennials since it usually goes against the traditional meaning of To Be Honest. When teens do leave a TBH they don’t usually want to be rude or snarky and hence say the obvious truth or something generic like “TBH, I think you are nice”, or “TBH, I think you are in my class”.

What do you write in a TBH for a friend?

To write a TBH for a friend, you can say clear messages right after the abbreviation.

  • TBH I miss our Playstation hangouts
  • TBH you’re a good man
  • TBH you have made me laugh too many times

It is also used by teens to get close to people who are friends of friends or are separated by an additional degree of friendship. It’s used to get closer to someone whom you haven’t interacted with before. It can also be used to convey romantic feelings.

What do you write in a TBH for a crush?

You can be blunt about it and comment “TBH and rate”. This invites the original poster to rate you out of 10 and also gives them a first impression. If you feel bolder you can go for “TBH, rate and date”. In this case, the original poster can choose to rate you out of 10 and state if they are interested in going out on a date with you. When you use TBH in such a way, it becomes a shield that tells the other person what to expect instead of a direct punch like “I love you”. It helps teens to keep things short and simple instead of going full-blown Shakesperian on their crush.

TBH can also be used to be nice to friends or acquaintances without any romantic nuances.

TBH for a girl

  • TBH if I had a sister, I wish she would be like you
  • TBH you are one of the most genuine people I’ve met
  • TBH you have a sweet sense of fashion

TBH for a boy

  • TBH your jokes bring me out of those bad days
  • TBH I wish I had a brother like you
  • TBH I wish we could do more crazy stuff as we did back in the day


TBH is a great example that shows how initialisms and abbreviations can develop over time and also shows us how languages are living, breathing entities that evolve with every generation and change in culture. It’s a shame that the trend is going out of fashion with the growing popularity of Instagram stickers.