Emoticons – love 'em or loathe 'em?
4 / against

Emoticons – love ‘em or loathe ‘em?

5 December 2012 | 12:30 pm

Invaluable tool for aiding digital communication or irritating affectation employed by Nigerian scammers and mad maiden aunts?

Let’s look at the case for using emoticons, and then let’s shoot it down…

For :-)

Digital communication is tops, enabling people to whizz stupendous amounts of information back and forth. The trouble is that instant messaging, texts and even emails are brief, and brevity can lead to misunderstanding. Not on a factual level, but emotionally.

Emails are most at fault here – long enough to look like proper communication, but far too short to actually be so. It’s very easy to offend someone with a poorly worded email, and quite easy to do with a well-worded one too. Humans are programmed to respond to facial expressions – it’s a key part of communicating. Without visual cues, we get lost. Emoticons help fill this gap.

Shorthand for our emotional state, emoticons take the edge off written content that could seem bossy or critical. And they’re not just for blunting the negative – they’re a great way to accentuate connections. Emoticons add a level of shading to messages, which helps us to understand exactly what those close to us are trying to say.

Against :-(

Cute. Trite. Patronising. The emoticon is the modern equivalent of the overused exclamation mark!!!!

They are the first resort of people too lazy or inarticulate to write precisely what they mean. Granted, a simple emoticon shows a joke to be a joke, which can be invaluable in the absence of tone and context, but we’ve moved far beyond alphanumeric cartoons now. There are whole menageries of animated, cutesy-poo creatures with which to clutter your emails. What the hell does a scotty dog panting over the edge of pink basket mean? Walkies? From my boss?

Emoticons obfuscate, they don’t clarify. Especially when used insincerely – who’s had a crappy email from their employer end with a grinning flourish, as if a smiling, yellow icon makes a job redundancy announcement easier to take?

Like raNDom cAsinG , HUGE characters, underlining and relentless italics, a J is just another way of saying I’m crazy, a charlatan, emotionally incontinent, or all of the above.

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