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Emoticons: A Debate

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A dear friend did what people in our brave new world do when they encounter a good article on the internet and emailed one from Salon by Mary Elizabeth Williams titled “Death to Smiley: why emoticons need to die :-(”

Williams finds the birth place of the smiley before it became an epidemic in text messages and emails across the nation. Like most things on the internet, the emoticon was invented by a geek before it was adopted by the cast of The Hills and Perez Hilton, who I presume texts a lot of smileys. It was birthed on September 19, 1982 by a Carnegie Melon computer scientist.

But Williams hates emoticons. To her they are a lower and simpler form of communication that reveal desperation on the part of the sender. They are childish and require too much effort; one has to turn her head sideways.

What is it about the emoticon that fills me with such loathing? Maybe it’s the wastefulness of the enterprise, the redundancy of it, the implied lack of confidence in the writer’s ability to communicate, or mine to comprehend. If you say, “I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight,” I think you’re looking forward to seeing me. If you say, “I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight. :-),” I think you’re not sure I understand the extent of sentiment in that seven-word message. And if you write, “I’m looking forward to seeing you tonight ;-),” I think your assumption of getting laid this evening may have been a bit premature, Winky.

I, however, like emoticons. Once you discover that a colon and a closed parentheses looks like a sideways smiley, you can create a variety of alien smiley’s and other fantastic facial expressions. They are fancy exclamation marks with more versatility than the conventional ‘!’ or the ‘?’.

Sure they may be reminiscent of the failed “happy experiment” of the 70s. But the yellow smiley face of the flower children of the 70s has grown up, it has adapted to amuse us in our texts and emails while still making great foggy-mirror art.

I don’t know why Williams has to be so cranky about emoticons =] They do nothing but shed a little joy on our increasingly demanding digital existence. My personal favorite is the Cyclops *) which admittedly works best on the cell phone. Dollar signs make great shades too $).

I suggest that hating emoticons is like accusing Barney the purple dinosaur of plotting to convert children into large purple beings. I suggest that those that have issues with emoticons are revealing deep flaws that are probably the consequence of severe trauma.

I suggest that if you hate emoticons, you visit a qualified and prestigious psychiatrist and inquire about the latest psychological disorder making its rounds around your neighborhood. I suggest that if you hate emoticons, there is something wrong with you.  😉


Written by DaddyWells

December 2, 2009 at 12:07 pm