The worst thing about smileys...

There's no nose to punch, and no balls to kick. They just sit there with their idiot grins, "beaming happiness into the aether"... Makes me sick.

I rarely, if ever, use smiley faces in my online text. Sure, they're a great way to denote sarcasm or attempted humor, but so is just being funny. Not that everyone will always agree on what is or isn't humorous. Take the first three sentences of this post.

There's no nose to punch, and no balls to kick. ;-) They just sit there with their idiot grins, "beaming happiness into the aether"... ;-) Makes me sick. ;-)

Does it really need to be explicitly stated that those words are facetious, and meant to be sarcastic?

Smileys help readers interpret the tone of the writer, on teh intartubes and elsewhere. They give a very insignificant portion of body language context. They also require absolutely no effort or intelligence to be understood. It's not cheating, it's just intellectually lazy.

It puts the burden of comprehension on the writer- fair enough to an extent- and absolutely removes any requirement for thought about context from the reader. As they are used more and more, people rely on them more and more to the point where if a post is absolutely void of smileys, some people won't recognize even the most blatant uses of irony or sarcasm.

Worse still, you can see the mental goo-ing effects by the inane discussions on some forums over which smiley signifies irony versus sarcasm versus intentional abuse versus AIDS. (My favorite smiley is ALWAYS the AIDS smiley.) It's ridiculous. The connotative context of the word strings make it ironical or sarcastic, not which emoticon is closest.

If you disagree, fuck you.

\(And then notice how you didn't get the joking context of that last sentence.)

Views: 75

Tags: comprehension, connotation, context, emoticons, irony, language, linguistic, reading, sarcasm, smiles, More…smileys


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Comment by Tom on February 5, 2010 at 12:27am
The internet is personal. That's why John D is justified in taking it personally. Personally, I agree.... with me.
Comment by Jason Spicer on February 3, 2010 at 6:56pm
Thisbe, I agree that it's basically rude to assume somebody is bilingual. And arrogant to assume that French is that second language. There are just too many languages floating about.

Felch, I didn't read George's bio, just some of his sampled pearls of wisdom. It doesn't shock me that he's part of the "Ooh! Shiny!" crowd. The split-second attention span of people like that is disturbing, and likely has no equivalent in the population prior to the advent of television, and MTV in particular. But I see emoticons and other fractured communications as a symptom of TV-induced ADD, rather than a cause of intellectual deterioration; the brain damage precedes the emoticons.

There, I've gone and done it. I've blamed television. I don't know if there is a Godwin's Law corollary about blaming TV for society's downfall. All I know is that makes me an old fogey. Still, television is the greatest mass neurological experiment on humans since the light bulb. I'd be surprised if it didn't have some kind of side effects. Heck, maybe even primary effects.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on February 3, 2010 at 6:10pm
Jason: Felch, the George files are pathetically hilarious. I can't help thinking English is his second language, but he is an excellent example of what you been speakening. Still, George obviously has problems with more than simple communication skills.

George is a perfect example of the product of his time. I don't know if you read his background, but he is a techno/raver 'tard. On top of the continuous distraction of gadgetry throwing a spanner in his cognitive processes, he belongs to a subculture that lives and breathes bright lights, mirrors, spectacle, mindless repetitive behaviour and sub/super sonics all amplified by mind altering pharmaceuticals. As we say in Oz, as far as cultivating an intellect, he's up shit creek without a paddle.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on February 3, 2010 at 6:02pm
John D.: Oh Felch - of course, forgive me. If you have trouble communicating with a young person it must be their fault. It is obvious to me now.

You didn't actually read a word I said did you ? Just saw some text on the screen and picked out some keywords like sparkly bits of foil to a bower bird. Or you read it, but the short term flash memory faded out. Regardless, I rest my case.
Comment by Jason Spicer on February 3, 2010 at 1:22pm
Felch, the George files are pathetically hilarious. I can't help thinking English is his second language, but he is an excellent example of what you been speakening. Still, George obviously has problems with more than simple communication skills. He seems to be brain-damaged generally. I'm pretty sure that, in an earlier era, he would have been pumping gas, or something equally mentally demanding.

I quite agree that an incoherent writer is almost certainly an incoherent thinker. But I think this kind of linguistic splatter is simply more abundant than it used to be, because text-based communications technology is now ubiquitous and required for most job functions. Technology has simply exposed us to the submerged part of the iceberg. I don't see professional or academic discourse as significantly degraded. Well, not since everybody stopped learning Latin back in the 50s, anyway.

At least, that's my opinion, pending any actual research results into the matter. I suspect that simply due to population and economic growth, there is a lot more high-quality writing than ever before. The question is whether that is changing on a per-capita basis. I don't believe casual observation can determine that.
Comment by Sentient Biped on February 3, 2010 at 10:42am
I used to hate smileys, but now that I see how much they annoy other people, I think I'll use them more :-) Same way about inane text abbreviations and repetitive punctuation. I hate it, but if other people hate it more, then maybe there is a point!!!!

LOL now I feel better already ROFL!!!!!!!!!
Comment by Фелч Гроган on February 3, 2010 at 8:19am
I guess you should meet The King of our new communication mediums.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on February 3, 2010 at 8:09am
Perhaps it is hard for old guys to learn to communicate with young people.

Communication isn't difficult with people that are coherent and have an attention span greater than a flea. In that regard, the dumbness of the iPhone generation is a bonus - it means people like me, the dinosaurs, will always be useful for the really basic things. Like being articulate and being able to give and/or follow simple instructions. Dying arts those.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on February 3, 2010 at 7:46am
John D.: I think that the people who can't see this obvious trend may just enjoy thinking they are smarter than everyone else (for example - all of us who are getting dumber by using shorthand).

Email was not uncommon even in 1990. By 1996 it was pretty much ubiquitous. You ignore the obvious - I don't "think" I'm smarter, I "know", so that part is irelevant. I have watched the degradation of language via electronic communication over that whole time. It has been a slow slide into the toilet. And it can really be seen when you compare an email you get from your building maintenance manager and that from the new hire comp sci honours graduate - the former makes sense without any lateral thinking deciphering skills. The latter rarely does.
Comment by Tom on February 3, 2010 at 3:42am
Try to understand that I was talking about forms of communication no shorter than emails, forum posts, or blogs. I should have made the length clear. If you're on twitter, a colon and a paren are more efficient in the 140 characters than two h's and two a's. Also, instant messaging and texting strive to be as fast as possible, and as short and information dense as possible. Those are the media where emoticons were born, where they serve definable, understandable, purpose; and the places they should stay.

Languages that don't change and adapt die. The more resistant to change/adaptation the faster they are replaced with more lossy forms that can better incorporate new ideas. That's fine, even if I didn't like that, I understand there's nothing to be done about it.

However, if I'm writing person correspondence, or ponderously long refutations of believer bullshit, and I say something obviously sarcastic (like "Oh, yeah, I completely agree that your non-controlled, non-blinded, post hoc data fitting modalities were reasonable. Please pardon my silly obsessive need for (what're those things called again?)... uhm, oh yeah!.. reality, science, and facts, in my science.") it's tedious to watch the horror play-out, and read the fall-out. So, now I'm the bad guy because I didn't include enough stimulating paradolia with my comments on the proper way to ROAST BABIES for our "HAHA! They think we're Atheists but really we're Satanists Day"? Worse are the times when people who otherwise agree with me tell me the sarcasm would be less scathing if I'd just add some friendly little smileys to tone down the vitriolic aspects. Or that it impinged on the message.

The point was made that smileys are ways of passive aggressively hiding intent, and I agree. It's easy enough to see on forums where people make snide comments to someone and "soften" it with smileys. Anecdotally, I'm on a forum where I know many/most of the people IRL and I'd say my non-scientific sampling shows the two most common reasons for the use of smileys in a post would appear to be either "because they're just so cute!" or for passive aggressive masking.

Take, for instance, John D who really hates how the big mean OP was rude and mean and personally offended him. And then points out that "teh intartubes" isn't funny completely missed the ironic tone of the usage. Notice how the phrase sits in the sentence like a steaming elephant turd in the middle of an office waiting room. (I'll point it out explicitly should anyone need help: It's obviously, glaringly, out of place.)

An Aside:
I know, I know. I hear you all screaming it at me across the electrons, spittle splashing wetly against your screens: "DON'T FEED THE TROLL!" Bah, I say. Watch, I say. This will be ... predictable.

A second aside:
The Nerd had the absolute best critical reply, so far. It relies on a false dichotomy of either you do this all of the time or never; but the sarcasm is hard to refute.

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