Emoticons: Annoying, but useful?

Many post-teen computer users may consider emoticons to be a scourge, a dumbing-down of the level of discourse, and a sure sign of the impending downfall of civilization. I'm tempted to agree - and yet, it turns out they may have some use. As Scott McDowell argues at The 99 Percent, "I've had to let go of my own perception that emoticons are silly. They may currently be our best tool for elevating the emotional clarity of digital messages." That's right, it's difficult to properly convey the non-text parts of human communication in emails and IMs - and those subtle cues are important. Instead of (dangerously) assuming that the reader will receive a message with the right emotional tone, a silly combo of punctuation marks can easily and usefully fill in those blanks. Who knew? Those crazy texting kids are on to something!

2 comments:

Pete Kazanjy said...

Emoticons are super useful. Just like one can passive-aggressively end a sentence with an ellipsis to signify doubt...

Josh said...

I've always been amazed by the strength of emotions those little three-character strings can convey.