Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Going emo over emoticons

Smiley face 2
Smiley face 2 (Photo credit: Wikipedia) 
When I was a kid (shush!), it was the rage to dot your i's with hearts, and punctuate most things with smiley faces.
Somehow I did end up with a pair of yellow smiley face earrings, and a rather large metal smiley face necklace. I'm not sure how that happened-- must have been a gift. Probably from that person who always used to tell me to smile.
I was a serious holdout. In my weaker moments, I played with the bubble writing, but natch. To this day, I've never used a heart as the dot over an i. Or a flower.
What I do go all curmudgeon about is the smiley face.
The logic is simplistic: Readers can't always glean the substance of the personal written word, and need a hint to understand the emotional overtones of an email. Hence, the proliferation in the use of the emoticon; i.e., the emotive icon.
Yes, I use the :-) quite a bit, and I cringe each time. Actually, I tend to use :) . The big yellow ones didn't have a nose, and it's easier to type. :P
I do have a certain fondness for :P .
But what are we conveying by punctuating our emails with smiling emoticons? Are we saying, "Hey, don't take it personally"? I think sometimes we are.
Just as frequently though, I think that little emoticon is an attempt to pull the wool over the reader's eyes, as in, "Yes, I just said something really nasty, but I'm going to put this little smiley face here so we can both pretend I didn't really mean it that way." Who are we fooling?
I wonder why we feel so inadequate in our written communiques-- both as scribers and as readers-- that we must resort to using a visual representation of our meaning.
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