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Why I Use Emoticons

October 8, 2009 6 comments

Do you do a lot of texting?  E-mailing?  Tweeting?  Facebooking?  Livejournaling?  Other web-related things?

I do a fair amount of all that and more and I freely admit that I make use of emoticons.  You know, those little symbols people make out of their keystrokes to show that they’re smiling    :), winking ;), frowning 😦 or that they’re Abraham Lincoln ==):-)= or Cthulhu (:€.

I’ve noticed that for the most part people tend to be divided into two camps over the use of emoticons.  Either they love them or they hate them.  Emoticon lovers tend to slather all their posts with little smiley faces, “leet” speech, acronyms and deliberately misspelled words and phrases (which are often called “lolcatz” for reasons it would probably take most of a second article to fully explain).  Haters of emoticons decry them as ignorant and childish and tend to characterize people who use them as annoying zeebs with cuteness fixations who don’t know how to properly express themselves in writing.

I’m not deeply enamored of emoticons but I do make fairly frequent use of them.  Why?  Because they’re handy communication tools.

The trouble with the vast majority of internet-based communication is that there’s no way to determine the tone of the person writing to you.  Let’s say you’ve just sent out a text message letting your circle of friends know you’re about to go on a date.  You immediately get a message back from Bob that says:

“Don’t stay out too late!”

Now I’m sure you see the problem here.  Is Bob actually telling you not to stay out too late or is he joking?  Does he actually think that you’re still a teenager and that you can’t take care of yourself or is he just doing some harmless ribbing?  Is Bob being a supportive pal or an overbearing jerk?

The fact of the matter is that Bob has made a perfectly innocuous statement.  But now it’s spinning around and around in your head.   When you go to meet your date you’re so angry, frustrated and nervous that you mistake them for a valet and toss them your keys, upon which they angrily get into your vehicle and drive off.  So, now, having no car and having realized your mistake there’s nothing you can do but sit at the bar drinking yourself into a depressed stupor until they throw you out.  Then you wander the streets drunkenly until you’re accosted by muggers and beaten to a bloody pulp.

But, fear not!  With the use of a single emoticon the whole nightmare scenario can be avoided!

Imagine if, instead of sending the message, “Don’t stay out too late!” Bob texts, “Don’t stay out too late! ;)”  You see that?  Bob is winking at you!  That means he’s just kidding around!  He’s really wishing you well on your date after all.  What a scamp Bob is!  Now you can go out on your date with a clear head and perhaps have sex later in the evening.

So that’s pretty much why I use emoticons.  Not only does it help prevent people from being beaten into unconsciousness by roving gangs of angry youths, but it also helps keep people from thinking I’m a total jerk. 😉

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