How A Winky Face Causes Me To Lose My Cool

18 Jul

The Cosmopolitan issue of the month this month is the use of emoticons, and how we feel about them as a society, and as Cosmopolitan is to me what the Bible is to the Pope, I feel it’s a topic that I want to cover. As ever, they present one argument for ‘for’, and one for ‘against’, and two members of their team argue as to why or why not they are advocators of a topic.

Emoticons, the bane of my life.

It really got me thinking. When, if ever, is an emoticon necessary, and does it actually change the  tone of a message? In a world where a comma or an apostrophe can change the whole feel of the 200 odd character messages we send, are they relevant, useful, or condonable? And, for that matter, how much does it mask what we are really trying to say? A message stating that someone is really cross with you can be totally misunderstood if you add a passive aggressive winky face on the end.

Reading this article on the train tied in nicely with an email I got a few weeks ago from one of my nearest and dearest, that had sent me into a complete spin. The subject matter was the fact that her boyfriend of less than a year had got drunk and had her name tattooed on his neck (but that is not the point of this story). The email thread finished with “no, it’s a bad idea, I think that’s the kind of thing you save for when you are married” phew, I thought, that’s OK. Nothing bad will happen. Till I noticed the sly little winky face that had snuck on the end of the sentence.

This changed EVERYTHING. Had she got married and not told me? Was she planning a Gretna Green style event? WAS SHE PREGNANT? None of these things had happened, but the addition of the winky face had sent my over enthusiastic mind off on one, like a bull lose in a china shop. And I was coming to all the wrong conclusions.

So using a swat team of the most highly intelligent brains (that I could happen upon) in the UK, I have come up with some extensive research (disclaimer, I have nothing to back these wild claims up with. But 90% of confidence is about the ability to bullshit, right? The other 10% is actually the truth. I know. I have partaken in a family game of Balderdash in my time, so know this to be correct).

How ironic that emoticons are helping me drive my point home. God. Damn. Them

My personal opinion is that it’s more appropriate for girls than boys. I know this is a gross stereotype, but if, for example, I am arranging a date with a guy and I get a message that includes more than one smily face, I’m immediately concerned. Is he a mummy’s boy? Does he write all correspondence using a selection of crayons in the colours of the rainbow? I know that as a modern woman I shouldn’t jump to this conclusion, but I do. I think it’s an instinct from back in the day of cavemen, when the appropriate mating ritual was being clubbed over the head and dragged back to the cave to cook dinner, but it’s the same with getting ready time. If the sum of the man’s getting ready ritual is equal to or greater than the sum of my getting ready ritual, then it will never be a happy union, and he is glossed over for a far less time consuming boy toy. End of.

My friends, however, have differing  views. One loves a good winky face, and has noted that after a whirlwind month of internet dating and actual dating, she said:My sentiments exactly.

Another sits on the fence, not minding them if used sporadically, but when overused they become a bugbear, where she wants to say

But a male friend echoes my views, saying simply

What are your thoughts?

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12 Responses to “How A Winky Face Causes Me To Lose My Cool”

  1. Love & Lunchmeat July 18, 2012 at 6:28 pm #

    In small doses, they can be useful. Too many and it’s like the laugh track for a sitcom that isn’t funny.

  2. duncanr July 18, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    I have mixed feelings about emoticons. Too many – and I find them irritating.

    On the other hand, I think they are a useful tool to aid understanding of written text in some circumstances. And I say ‘some circumstance’ deliberately. There are some situations I would strongly advise they should NEVER be used, e.g., job applications – [and a ‘sad’ emoticon accompanying a letter of condolence to someone who has lost a loved one is not going to endear you to that person. Trust me on this!]

    We glean a lot of information from a person’s face or tone of voice that helps us interpret the meaning behind their words, but that is not failsafe. People can (and do) attempt to mislead us with their facial expressions.

    There is a type of Scottish humour – a sarcastic, tongue-in-cheek remark delivered in a dead-pan manner – that fellow Scot’s rarely misunderstand. When I lived in Canada, however, I was forever having to explain to folk that I had not meant to offend them – I had been pulling their leg

    The potential for misunderstanding is even greater when we cannot see the other person’s face or body language !

    I used to help moderate a satirical news site. Folk would often get very het up and I would be forced to step in on occasion to cool things down. I would seek to do so by injecting some humour into the debate and pushing the discussion in another direction. Initially, though, my interventions would inflame rather than defuse the situation because the protagonists (who were generally american) would not recognise my remarks were tongue in cheek. The insertion of a winking emoticon at the end of the sentence, however, helped to prevent misunderstanding.

    So I am in favour of emoticons. I think they have an important role to play in aiding understanding between people but they should be used sparingly and judiciously

  3. Jeni July 18, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    I gave them up for Lent. I figured if my sarcasm wasn’t obvious, it was my job to just be a better writer. I liked the break and use them sparingly now.

  4. Richard Wiseman July 18, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Well this is a tricky one. I’m a word man myself, obviously, to the extent that I text the full words, grammatically correct and with punctuation correct too; so really on a personal level I’d say they were not for me; though at 47 I’m probably the wrong age to use them anyway. I do this on twitter {;~)>===> if I’m making a joke about something said by someone I don’t know, just to indicate a facial expression of what I hope is, ‘relax I’m being ironic and amusing’ and please don’t take it seriously’. Now for me that sums up the use of the emoticon. Research has shown that babies recognize human emotions from facial expressions very early on and can determine a person’s emotional state quite quickly in life. As we are in a digital age and not communicating face to face nor having long land line phone conversations sat on the stairs in the hall, where the only phone in the house was situated in the 1970’s, seriously it’s true, I’d say the emoticon has developed as a way of helping people determine the emotional mood in what is now a high speed, emotionally inexpressive, tone of voice lacking text speak communication age. I’d add here that if I were using emoticons I would develop my own set or even photograph my different facial expressions and put the appropriate self made emoticon in the message making it clear visually what my state of mind was. Now if you want my opinion, you are a gifted verbal and written word communicator and so any message from you, however short, would be very clear and so as such a person emoticons aren’t going to help much. I’m the same. Our words would leave no doubt as to our moods. However less verbally gifted communicators probably need emoticons in the absence of tone of voice as they are e-mailing and texting; so I’d suggest that between friends an agreed set of emoticons was put in place so that the code of emotion was clear. Personally I like my own idea of pictures of my own face with the appropriate range of emotions, but then I don’t need them as I’m married, middle aged, with children and so don’t have a social life or see my friends much anymore, ‘happy with things which leave me tired’, and so I rarely text. Hmmm this is long isn’t it? You always get me thinking, that’s what I love about your blog, it’s stimulating. (I am smiling now, but in a wry self deprecating way which suggests I am both amused and challenged).

  5. Go Jules Go July 18, 2012 at 10:56 pm #

    Whoa whoa whoa. A neck tattoo of her name?! That is…serious. And then to toy with you with the winky face. Wow. That’s a lot to take in.

    Your comment about the irony of using the emoticons to drive your point home cracked me up, as did your research findings! I am guilty of using the smiley and winky faces, usually because I’m afraid someone won’t be able to tell I’m joking, and EVERYONE MUST LIKE ME so I can’t take any chances. I even still use “LOL,” which might be almost as bad. I wanted to use it just before, but I didn’t.

    And I agree the emoticons are not very manly.

  6. Spoon Feast July 19, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    It is the Southern Equivalent of “Bless you heart” 😉

  7. prenin July 19, 2012 at 7:21 am #

    I use them only when appropriate, usually at the beginning of an email and at the end, although sometimes you can use them to take the sting out of a comment. 🙂

    Love ya! 🙂

    Prenin.

  8. Garrett McKenna July 19, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Great post! I totally get you about being thrown off my emoticons. 😛

    Although, I do often used the winky face after a message where I write something mean/offensive/angry just to be ball-busty and funny so that there can be no misinterpretation on the behalf of the reader. This way, they know that I’m not being (too) serious.

  9. Arlene Miller II July 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm #

    I’m a wordy person. I enjoy being able to say things just right through my (fantastical) use of words alone.

    That being said…

    I have noticed in the inflection-less universe created when when our words are being read without context or body language, it is often handy to inflict emotion upon your reader. By that I mean grammar tricks, incorrect spelling for exaggeration, over use of ellipses or commas to show hesitations… things like that. YES, sometimes that does include a smile, or wink or some such thing.

    THAT being said, I think if you are a playful enough person, you can create a language between a couple of people based on smilies alone. Ex: everyone knows :-* is a kiss and 😛 is a tongue sticking out… When flirting a little extra with the boyfriend, I send him :-* 😛 (which is mean to indicate “the fancy french kind” of kiss). It can be fun if you are playing with the right person.

  10. observingthescene July 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm #

    This was a good topic and answered a question that has been on my mind. How to select a topic for my next post? You appear to have a Don Quixote-type approach, where you select a windmill of the day with which to joust. I think it’s great! My subjects seem to run the gamut, and seldom humorous, even though I have a great sense of humor. I don’t consider myself a comedian, hence my lack of stand-up experience. However, I do enjoy watching people and interpreting their actions. This activity supplies me with a ton of things to laugh about. Like the guy I saw today driving down the street, talking on a cellphone, eating a bowl of soup with his other two hands. Made me speculate seriously about what he was using to steer the car. With the world being populated largely by idiots, there is plenty of fodder about which to laugh. Congratulations on being able to hit the nail on the head regularly!

  11. julieharrold February 1, 2014 at 3:19 am #

    I know someone who ONLY uses winky faces and uses them all.the.time. Drives me bananas, 99% of the time the winky face doesn’t even make sense at the end of her sentences!

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