Saturday, June 17, 2006

How I Learned to Like ;) Emoticons

I was IMing earlier with a friend who's just gotten on MSN Messenger, and was therefore reflecting on how I changed from an emoticon snob to someone who quite likes them--in their place, which in my mind is only in IM conversations except for judiciously placed smileys :) and winkys ;) in emails to be sent to people you already know.

I fully admit that a part of the reason I like them in IM has nothing to do with better communication beyond spreading amusement with the little animated ones--my favorite in messenger is the little one that squinches up his eyes before crying. (I actually go out of my way sometimes to find appropriate occasions to use that one.)

But the real reason I was converted to emoticons within the IM environment is that they're actually very important to communicate tonality in a conversational medium that otherwise lacks the nonverbals a face-to-face conversation would have. However cheesy they look, they actually play an important role in IM communication--provided the people you're chatting with have a comparable viewer with all the same emoticons so they don't get hit over the head with the complicated ASCII-character-based hard-to-decipher versions that seem a bit overly in-group for those who know them.

But I don't agree with the extended use of them in emails (for which they were actually invented). There's just so many email programs that chances are, someone's going to see the clunky ASCII-based variations there. And so using anything there beyond a simple :) and ;)--which seem fairly self-explanatory--seems like it would not only be showing off, but would hinder communication rather than helping it.

Okay, so reading over this I'm thinking that I haven't lost all my emoticon snobbishness--but I've certainly warmed up to them. :)

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