In Defense Of The Emoticon

This past summer, I attended a graduation party wearing a bright orange rubber ring that took up half of my middle finger. It read “LOL” in white letters and its target market (children) got all up in arms over it. “Oh my god, I love that. Mom, look! It’s a text speak ring!” an 8-year-old cried out, and it was her enthusiasm that moved me to vow that I would defend and honor the acronyms of my youth against naysayers, come hell or high water. “LOL predates text messaging… FYI,” I would have said if I were a sociopathic misfit. Instead, I let her try it on. She beamed.

I’m tired of people hating on LOL and similar internet jargon. You wanna know who’s actually ‘laughing out loud’? Me. That’s who. Ask anyone who has witnessed me in front of a computer for more than fifteen minutes. You know why I’m laughing out loud? Because the internet is fun. Because the internet tickles me. Because I’m talking to someone who makes me laugh or watching a cat mastering a treadmill or enjoying my goddamn life, that’s why.

Which brings me to emoticons. I use them. On the daily. And you will have to pry them from my cold, dead, Carpel Tunnel Syndrome-riddled hands if you have a problem with it. How, in an age where we earnestly refer to ourselves as “plugged-in” and “wired,” are we taking ourselves so seriously that we bemoan the use of a smiley face now and again? Communication is a constant work in progress, and emoticons fill the void that digital interaction has created.

That’s what they’re here for. They’re not here to separate the old from the young, the dim from the bright, the stoic from the tawdry. They’re here so I don’t have to type out “Cheesing so hard right now” or “That’s not funny, I mean it kind of is, I’m pretending to be annoyed right now but I’m more-or-less teasing, sort of.” If someone makes me smile, I want him to know it. I don’t want his joke or kind sentiments to get lost to a GChat echo chamber because I’ve committed to preserving my cool rather than having a meaningful interaction with someone. Because nothing is more uncool than having and acknowledging emotions! God forbid.

I want to go on the record and say that emoticons make me feel good. They make me feel like I’m eliciting something that a nonverbal cue would otherwise notify me of, but cannot, because LCD screens and stuff. They make me want to write a song to the tune of “Emotions,” in which the chorus goes something like, “Whoa, whoa/ You’ve got me feeling emoticons,” and I basically want to play that song every time someone blesses me with a :D or a :B (that’s buckteeth, if you weren’t in the know). Guys who use emoticons? Yes please, I’ll take two. Love your smile, bb.

The argument that excessive emoticoning is a turn-off is valid. Excessive anything is a turn-off when we’re talking about communication. Too many text messages, too many phone calls, too many words. Bad. A winky face ain’t a punctuation mark, noted. Like any form of language, emoticons should be used with purpose and understanding, not just tacked onto the end of every statement like “for all intents and purposes.” What they shouldn’t be is completely disregarded or used as a barometer for who we’re too good for.

Life is short, and we spend so much of it in front of a computer. With that in mind, we should all smile more — even if that smile is constructed of a colon and parenthesis. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

image – Shutterstock

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