Watcha Say ;)

24 Sep

Last week I re tweeted an online article called Emoticons: The History of Digital Sarcasm ūüėČ. To be honest it was the “winky” face that initially caught my attention and got me to read the article. I was also intrigued by the idea of digital sarcasm. The article credited computer scientist Scott Fahlman as the first to document the use of Emoticons. Fahlman said:

The problem was that if someone made a sarcastic remark, a few readers would fail to get the joke, and each of them would post a lengthy diatribe in response. That would stir up more people with more responses, and soon the original thread of the discussion was buried….This problem caused some of us to suggest (only half seriously) that maybe it would be a good idea to explicitly mark posts that were not to be taken seriously.

The rest is history. Soon Emoticons were being used to describe every feeling: happy :-], sad :-[, worried :-/, angry >:-|, the list goes on and on. They became embedded in every day digital communication. Emoticons can be found on Facebook, cell phones, Twitter, emails and basically any other online medium. I know there is not a day that goes by where I do not send or receive some time of Emoticon. Sometimes all I send is an Emoticon as a message. In a world of such advanced digital communication we still resort to symbols to get the true meaning of our message across. We have spent centuries studying and developing languages all across the world, but now a colon, a hyphen and a parenthesis is the new universal symbol of happiness :-).

This article got me thinking about a serious problem that comes with this new era of digital communication. There is a serious inability to properly communicate our emotions.  An email cannot emote for you. A text message cannot properly transmit the witty tone  in which you intended for the message to sound like. We do not get to see the body language or hear the tone of voice that comes with communicating in person or over the phone. People have lost  jobs and relationship have been ruined over misinterpreted emails and text messages. This just serves as a reminder that our writing must be as clear and precise as ever. We as writers have to set the tone  of our messages solely with our words. As PR professional it also serves a reminder to remember who my audience is. Who am I telling my story to? Am I using the right language to make sure my message sounds the way I want it to? There is a lot of thinking that needs to be done before we let our fingers hit the keyboard. But hey if all else fails a little smiley never hurt anyone ;).

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6 Responses to “Watcha Say ;)”

  1. carissasaia September 24, 2012 at 3:50 am #

    This post was very interesting and I loved reading all about the emoticons. Honestly, I never used to use them but people are using them more and more lately and I have found myself starting to use them. It is so true about how it is hard to show emotion through text or email or any none verbal form of communication. There are so many times were I had a friend think that I was mad at them because of the way that they read my text. Or, recently, I thought someone was being rude to me in a text by the way that I read their text in my head. With text and email we do not get the personal connection with a human being to understand what they are truly saying so we have to create their attitude in our heads.

    I think the emoticons definitely help. They are not a solution to the problem but they can clear up some confusion. If you are being sarcastic and put a silly face, people will know you are not mad at them. It is a very interesting topic to talk about.

    • mnorkett October 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

      Emoticons definitely overall help communication. I think it also making communication more fun for everyone. It adds personality. It makes texting more fun, it even making tweeting more fun. And they’re easy to use I also sometimes just respond with emoticons. With the new IPhone update one of the most exciting things I’ve heard about are the new emoticons so I cannot wait to get them. I really enjoyed reading this post good job.

  2. izzicrowley September 24, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Eloquently said Briana! I use emoticons so often it is second nature, but rarely have I considered the origins of their use or what it is that drives me to add them to the end of my messages. Too often, I find myself using emoticons in a text message to express my feelings during an argument or time of happiness. Your post got me wondering- in real life, do I smile as often and pout as readily as I do with the help on an emoticon? And the answer is probably not! Today is a digital age- but it is not an excuse to leave the expression important feelings up to the combination of symbols I type into my cell phone. I particularly enjoyed the way you tied this in to the field on public relations. These considerations should go beyond our personal lives and be reflected in our professional careers.

  3. kaitlynjean September 25, 2012 at 2:42 am #

    This was really interesting! I never thought there would be such a use for emoticons but you make a great point that tone, specifically sarcasm, cannot be portrayed well through an email or text. I didn’t really think emoticons would help this situation but now that there are so many, you can literally portray any emotion with some of the cute little images that they have out there now. And i definitely agree that as PR professionals you constantly need to be thinking about who you are addressing your story, too. Sometimes a certain tone will not work well with a certain audience and i would hate to lose a job because of a mistake like that!

  4. 2181lindeng October 1, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    I really enjoyed this blog post! I use emoticons all the time and sometimes I feel like I have to use them to show people I am being saracastic or joking, since it’s hard to portray over texts or emails. I have never thought about emoticon’s origin and I think it’s interesting that you tied it into PR. I agree with Izzie when she says that these emoticons need to go beyond our personal lives and into our professional careers.

  5. matthewtfrostblog December 8, 2012 at 2:23 am #

    When it comes to emoticons, I believe they help with interpreting the context of a particular message. Mostly used in online chatting and text messaging, I find it helps me much more to decifer exactly what someone is trying to say. In my opinion I feel emoticons can be a bit obnoxious sometimes, often being used as a joke. Overall, I do not see emoticons being used in a business format, where it is more formal and utilizing a professional way of writing.

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