I have mixed feelings about emoticons. By all counts, I should hate them. I hate “text speak” for the most part, and generally only use it ironically.
But emotions…I’ll be damned if they haven’t winked their way into my grammatically correct heart.
And so, here it is; my totally unprovoked defense of the emoticon.
I think, like most things I come to love over time, it started as a joke. When I used a winky face, it was as if I was also winking at the audience, letting them know I was in on the gag.
Like, LOLZ OMG I’m totes winking at you grrrl, LYLAS!!!!!!1111oneone ;-);-);-)
But somewhere along the line, I stopped being able to claim sarcasm. My frowny face meant I was frowning. My smiley face represented my own happiness.
The tables had turned, and like any other addiction, there was no going back.
But you know what? I’m okay with it, and here’s why: Writers, email users, and online chatters alike have long and oft complained that the biggest downfall of written communication is it’s lack of emotional context.
I say, “You’re an idiot.”
I could be insulting you. I could be using an inside joke my sister and I share, where we mean this in a loving sense. (You wouldn’t get it.) I could be teasing entirely.
But you don’t know because you can’t see my face.
So what does the internet go and do? It gives is another way. An arguably better way. Emoticons.
Suddenly, you don’t have to wonder if I’m joking or sincere. Suddenly, even if there are no words for what we’re talking about but I still want to be there for you, the frowny face becomes my expression of sympathy.
Is it perfect? No, and I’m in no way saying that it’s impossible to abuse the emoticon. But I’m not a believer in extremes, so I disagree with anyone who says they’re always stupid.
Those people are probably just a bunch of angry faces anyway. 😉