I *have* read other opinions on the use of emoticons. Namely, that they are crutches, that they are unsophisticated, and that some will not stoop to using them. These opinions come from writers, intelligent folks who pride themselves on precise communication using words alone. When we write for our readers, we don't generally use pictures (unless you do PBs or graphic novels). All we have is words. So I suppose I understand this negative attitude about emoticons coming from these particular people.
Except--these two types of communication are quite different, in my opinion. We use emoticons in interpersonal communication, and specifically, while communicating via electronic means. We use them as a substitute for nonverbals--gestures, facial expressions, body language, tone of voice. We use them for a REASON. My favorite comment on Monday was from Adam Heine, who said:
As someone who has gotten in a heated couple's argument because of misunderstood tone of voice in an e-mail, I am a big fan of emoticons.And there you have it. I think Adam's comment beautifully demonstrates why we use emoticons. They help us make ourselves understood in a medium in which our nonverbals have been stripped from us, yet our need to communicate--quickly and effectively--is incredibly high. Research has demonstrated that emoticons facilitate this type of communication.
That being said, I'm a latecomer to the world of emoticons. I'm using them more often these days, but only in certain situations. When I see them over used :)))))))))))), I still flinch a bit. I can't help myself. If you're communicating with me and you're using strings of emoticons like the one above, I might tell you I'm worried about you. It makes me wonder if you're in some kind of manic state and require assistance. If one smiley is friendly, five (in close proximity) is trying too hard, and ten makes me wonder if we're headed for a breakdown.
This is in part due to the fact that the majority of my computer-mediated communication was strictly professional up until last November, so maybe I have a low threshold for this kind of thing. And believe me, when I'm communicating with a potential referral source, it's not really OK to type something like, "Thanks so much for the referral!!! :D My wait-list is a few months long :(((( But I'll try to fit them in as soon as I can :P"
In informal interpersonal communication, though, I'm increasingly finding them an easy way to make a friendly gesture. To make my intent clear. To smile at my communication partner through the computer screen. That seems worthwhile. Sure, any form of communication can be exaggerated or overused, but emoticons have their place, and I'm glad we have them.
And here, I present you with:
|Your standard dancing banana.|