I Don’t Do Emoticons



I don’t do “high five”s.

Well, every now and then, if I can’t avoid it, I do.

If some event causes a hand to be in the air, facing me, waiting for me to smack it with the palm of my hand, I do. I always wince. It never feels authentic.

I never, ever initiate a “high five”.

I was never comfortable with “groovy”.

I was a child of the sixties; I knew the language. I could say “cool” with exactly the right amount of nonchalance to convey the fact that whatever I was responding to was fantastic…but that I was way too cool to let it show. “Far out” was reserved for those occurrences that deserved a bit more enthusiasm. “Bummer” was appropriate for times and happenings that were sad, unfortunate or boring. I still use these words and phrases, though it causes my baby sister to smile at the quaint, “old-fashioned” sound of them.

“Groovy”, though, always seemed contrived. I felt it would be the right word if I were ever on the verge of a drug-induced trance, but since I didn’t do drugs, it never felt right.

A friend asked, a while ago, why I couldn’t just respond with a “You GO, Woman!” to a bit of good news she’d told me. Two other female friends had given her that exact response, I was told.

I said things like “Great!” and “Oh, that’s wonderful!”. I may even have thrown in a “Far Out!”.

Evidently, “You GO, Woman!” is not something I’m comfortable with, either.

Finally, I don’t do emoticons.

I don’t do the little bobble-head ones that grin or wink.

I don’t do the mixture of punctuation marks to create smiles or frowns, winks or hugs.

I knew a man who would push and push: sarcasm and insults and under-handed comments, until I finally called him on it. Then he’d say, “Well, hey, I was only joking around!”

Sometimes those little smiley faces seem to be doing the same thing.

As if a colon combined with a half-parenthesis will take away the sting of a hurtful comment.

I suppose they come in handy.

There have been a few times when the meaning of my words on the page were misconstrued. It’s hard to sort out. What words made it seem that I was unhappy? What did I write that gave the idea that I was angry?

It’s hard to convey the subtleties of human language with the written word. Was that humor? Sarcasm? Was it done in friendliness or was it mean-spirited?

I think smiley faces were invented to solve those problems of miscommunication.

I just can’t do it.

It’s kind of like the exclamation point. After a while, it seems like every single sentence needs one. If not an exclamation point at the end of this statement, then why does that other statement deserve one? Is one sentence less deserving of enthusiasm?

If I were to start using emoticons to let readers know how I’m feeling, I would need them everywhere.

“Yes, that last sentence sounded a little bland – no exclamation point, even – but no, look here, I’m still smiling!”

Nope, I won’t.

24 responses »

  1. This is great, Cindy! 🙂 I know exactly what you’re saying about exclamation points. Sometimes I look back at something I wrote, and realize it looks like I must have been jumping up and down and shouting. (But since I actually do that, a lot, maybe it’s okay.) (I think I use a lot of unnecessary parentheses, too, which I also do when I speak; I often realize that people have tuned me out and moved on to something else before I’ve finished what I was trying to say.) Anyway, I loved this post, and your photo is perfect!

    • I do that, too, with the parentheses. Also commas, dots and dashes…I think of the nuns trying to diagram my sentences, and how severely they’d frown. There are just too many “asides” these days, trying to look like I understand and sympathize with every point of view before I share my own – with great enthusiasm (exclamation point!). Thanks for reading, Kate, and for your comments!

  2. I find myself using exclamation points too often too. When we write things we want to be sure our reader knows not only what we’re saying, but how we’re saying it. Unfortunately today’s communication is turning into a bunch of animated cartoon heads rather than writing anything out. I weep for the future. Cool post.

    • As a child, when I would write letters to friends by hand, there was the single underline, or the bold letters, the capital letters, the scribbled (one hundred line)underline and the wall of exclamation points to make my feelings clear. All of this was unacceptable when writing to my grandparents. For those letters, I had to find the words. It was good exercise. I enjoyed reading books, and understood their meaning, without all the acrobatics to convey emotion that my friends and I used. Maybe there’s hope. I hope!!! Thanks for reading, Sara, and for your comments!

  3. I use too many of the darned things. It’s a bad habit, I think. It bothers me that we can’t see each other’s faces and body language when communicating online, but little symbols and extra punctuation aren’t really a good solution. You made me realize that when I’m reading a book by a wonderful writer, there’s no confusion about what emotion is being conveyed.

    • It is hard to convey feeling through the typed word. Hand-writing allows more emotion to show through. But, you’re right, we don’t see emoticons, rarely even italics or bold-face letters, almost never under-lines, and one exclamation point does its job when reading books or essays by wonderful writers. There must be a way!
      Thank you for reading, Martha, and for your comments.
      I’m enjoying your art work very much, by the way! You inspire me to get into my own studio.

  4. Cindy, well laud, laud, that was something. I have never liked groovy. Always made me think of the Partridge Family for some reason which were the least “groovy” family ever comprised for the small screen. I have spent most of my life trying to be who I am and not who I am expected to be. Emails, texting, etc. make it difficult to understand the intentions of the words sent out. Without our inflections and emphasis it is easy to misinterpret what somebody is trying to say. Great post. You go girl. Oh, sorry. 🙂

    • Yes, I am asking for it, aren’t I? I actually do love to see an enthusiastic high five (or most any enthusiastic show of camaraderie) but am not “one of those people” who feels comfortable with it. Likewise with the other things I mentioned. The emoticons can, you’re right, be helpful…they just don’t feel right to me. Thank you for reading, and for your comments!

  5. hahahahahahahaha!! I can’t believe the timing of reading this post immediately AFTER I just searched for new smiley apps for my Samsung Galaxy s3 !!!! I love those dang little faces but for some reason I can’t find the emoticon app I used waaaaaaaayyyyyyyy back in the day on my Palm Pixi, one of the original smart-ish phones. I’ve downloaded so many emoticon apps over the last few years but none measure up to the original. They were offered directly from Sprint and they were SO perfect…smiling hearts for Valentine’s Day, leprechauns around St. Paddy’s…and on and on with seasonal themes. Needless to say, not having smileys to chose from makes me very 😦 indeed.
    ps. I’m with you on the high 5 though! Too yuppie-esque for my taste….especially when paired with the phony sounding phrase, “good job!” That whole thing makes me HOSTILE!!! <——-Insert angry emoticon here when i find one!

    • Oh, that is funny! I see the point of them, honestly, they are just one of the many things that I personally don’t feel comfortable with. Good luck finding the “vintage” ones you want! Thanks for reading, and for your comments!

  6. Great post, Cindy. I find it hard to tell people that you’re joking without sometimes using those emoticons or those silly lols or whatever. Because it seems like sometimes people interpret from their own framework and think it’s serious when it’s really posted with a smile. It’s a conundrum. Wishing there was a better way to communicate sometimes.

    • Exactly! I have the same issues…which was the reason, I guess, for the post. I can see where they serve a purpose, I don’t mind seeing them (in fact sometimes appreciate the clarification) in other people’s writing, just can’t bring myself to use them myself. I will suffer, I guess, with being misunderstood. Even in person (according to my children, my ex-husband and at least one former friend) I have a facial expression or tone of voice that begs misinterpretation. I really am NOT a miserable, sad or grouchy human being most of the time! Maybe I should carry a sign…though I doubt I’d feel comfortable with that, either!

  7. I completely agree, CIndy. Emoticons and the now ubiquitous “LOL” and its ilk are crutches that forgive imprecise language and keep you from having to actually express yourself accurately in words. I too have seen the behavior where someone uses a smiley to sugarcoat cruelty or insensitivity. More often though, I notice really bland, inexpressive language coupled with an incongruous smiley (or wavey, or winkey, or whatever) that is supposed to convey everything the writing itself is lacking.

    And as for LOL, I always have to ask myself, is this person literally laughing out loud, or are they saying that they would be if whatever just happened or was said had happened or been said in person?

    With any luck it is just a fad that will someday fade.

    • Exactly! Readers KNOW that wit and humor, sadness, joy, displeasure and even sarcasm can all be conveyed without the use of symbols. Mark Twain managed it brilliantly, as have many other writers, very successfully, over the years.
      As for the “LOL”, I have seen it as “LOLOLOLOLOL” as we used to write “HAHAHA” and I wonder if we are actually changing the way we imagine the sound of rolling laughter in our minds?
      Best of luck to you, by the way, on the library job. I have to admit my heart sank a little when I learned you’d applied as you would fit that position very well. We would all love to see you and your lovely family here on the island. That alone will be a grand consolation prize to me, if the position goes to you. Sincere best wishes!

  8. This design is wicked! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog well, almostHaHa! Wonderful job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool! ebcdccaeddda

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