My Dad uses them, in excess.
My Grandmother did too.
My Mom would, if she knew what they were.
Emoticons. They’re EVERYWHERE. Formerly advised against in business communication, I’ve received them in messages from even my most prestigious clients, and (though I’m loathe to admit it), found myself colon-parenthesis-ing right back. You’d think I was a teenage chat-room groupie.
And yet, while actively struggling to keep these annoyingly ridiculous little doodah’s out of my emails, I’ve noticed that I don’t use it to be cute; quite the contrary. I find myself using emoticons (smiley faces, especially) to mitigate what I really want to say, to lessen the blow from my true intention that may not be kindly received.
Have emoticons become EmotiContradictions?
Perhaps. In much of my business, and even personal, email communication, I inevitably have to say something bordering on the edge of strict or even rude. To say that someone is "TOTALLY a PR person" – while true – may be received as somewhat scathing and, though I wrote it for a reason, my initial instinct was to add a smiley face ":)" after the comment. Cheezy, I know, but for some reason, I think society allows us to contradict our true intentions by adding this two-character mitigator.
Why do we do that? Are we really so afraid to say what we want to in this overly PC world? If the girl is annoying, why not say it? Why, instead, do we say that "she’s more than a bit persistant. :)" It could be the converted Southerner in me, where insults are covered in sweet molassas, only discovered days later that you’ve been told off. It’s the "Bless Her Heart" syndrome in reverse, where whatever comes after the heart-blessing is sure to be some sort of jab at the person; with emoticons, the insult lies in what comes before.
Because, seriously, these days it’s become a twist on the old adage.
"If you haven’t got anything nice to say, add a smiley face. :)"