Sunday Mail column for Sunday 10 July 2011. The one about emoticons …


This week I had one of those awkward realisations. You know the ones. Those moments when you clearly see something about yourself that is rather shocking. Uncomfortable. Lame.  It could be that moment it dawns on you that you look completely out of place shopping at Sportsgirl because you look – what’s the word? – oh yes, old.  Maybe it’s when you see a photo of yourself and realise that yes – wearing that poncho and with that fringe you do actually look like your Uncle Frank. Excellent.  Or maybe it’s when it occurs to you that you are the only person left in the world still watching Desperate Housewives. And so it was this week, when trawling through some recent emails, I realised I’d become someone I despised. It appears that I’ve started using emoticons.

Oh yes, yes I have.

I’m not sure how I got here.

I used to be anti-emoticon.  When others used them in text messages and emails, I scoffed, I eye-rolled, I thought a teeny, tiny little bit less of them.  I mean emoticons were on my list of reasons to not date a guy. Uses emoticons. Drinks citrus fruit-flavoured girlie drinks with tropical holiday label.  Lives with his mother. Watches Two and a Half Men.  Thinks Two and a Half Men is funny. Plays any type of computer game involving “quests” and “wizards”.

And yet somehow in the past six months I have morphed into that Pollyanna person who adds an inane goofy, grinning face to the end of her emails.  And not just smiling faces.  Sad faces! 🙁  Tongue pokes! 😛  A kind of slanty mouthed one that looks a little bit like someone who voted for Labour at the last federal election. :/ And winks? 😉 Don’t get me started on winks. I don’t even wink in real life. But on email and Twitter? I’m like Shane Warne at your cousin Sharon’s wedding.  In cyber-space I’m winking at everybody. It’s like I have a nervous tick.

Emoticons are so not me. I’m edgy. (Okay clearly I’m not edgy, that’s a lie. I’m not sure why I said that).  But I didn’t think I was lame. Well, not this lame.

In my defence (watch me do that little dance called “justification”) I like to think my new emoticon usage is related to the fact I spend a rather large amount of time on Twitter and email.  And I’m scared of the trolls. After all, email and Twitter are toneless and we all know how easy it is to be “mis-mooded”.  So my chirpy little smiley face says, “See? Happy tone!” My wink says, “See? Cheeky joke!”  The tongue poke says, “See? I think you’re a deeply offensive nutjob but I’m scared you’re an Internet troll so I’m pretending not to be offended by you!”  The sad face says … actually I don’t know what the sad face says. I think maybe it says, “I’m 39 and yet need emotional flashcards”.

Of course, emoticons have their own problems. As my friend Thalia pointed out to me, they are universally loved by the passive/aggressive.  That text message that says, “Don’t forget to do the dishes 🙂 “ is code for “If I have to ask you one more time about the &%#% dishes I am going to take a hammer to your West Wing DVD collection. :)”

A number of my friends have held strong in their refusal to use emoticons. And I respect them deeply for that. That said, they’ve still admitted to accidentally adopting activities they previously mocked.  My friend Kate has found herself actually contemplating how useful it would be to have her reading glasses on a chain. Rick routinely lectures twenty-year-olds on the dangers of driving tired and being distracted by rowdy friends. He’s 24. Emma recently realized she spent all her time in the car listening to an AM station.   And then there’s my friend Kim who turned down tickets to a very, very cool outdoor music festival because she hates portaloos.

Talk about lame. 😉

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About Bec

Over the past 25 years Rebecca Sparrow has earned a living as a travel writer, a television publicist, a marketing executive, a magazine editor, a TV scriptwriter, a radio producer, a newspaper columnist and as an author.

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