Acceptance Leads to More Questions

In my evolution from Luddite to social media evangelist during this semester and thanks to the content and comments from Dr. Pignetti and fellow learners, I have found one part of social media that has continued to nag: the use of emojis/emoticons. From the ubiquitous “smiley face” and emoticons built of sequences of letters and punctuation. we now are bombarded with pictures and strings of emojis from ever-growing libraries in an Instant Message (IM) or email. Previously, I have dismissed these as something reserved for “ onna otaku” (she-geek or teenaged wired girl). I believe that I have previously posted that a good way to fail an assignment in my writing class is to employ emojis/emoticons.

Indeed, my 27-year-old niece consistently communicates only in shorthand condensations (“lol”), emojis and emoticons which, more often than not, baffle me. For example, what does a string containing an animated cat’s face, an evergreen tree, a red heart, and a blue lightning bolt mean? (No, I am not making that up.)

However, I now believe these constitute an emerging, valuable supplement to the words (even reduced to code like “yolo”) because they add an affective or emotional (duh) dimension. Indeed, as the entry for emoticon in states, it is “intended to represent a human facial expression and convey an emotion.”

We have all suffered through misunderstandings or perceived slights in emails or IMs that are “only” words. I see now that these problems are inevitable because, despite being hopelessly addicted to words and their appropriate, impactful use, I know they can’t convey sarcasm, a tone of voice, or other affective elements of conversation.

This suggests some very fruitful lines of academic inquiry:

  1. Tracing the history/evolution of the emoticon/emoji.
  2. Attempting to build a lexicon and/or grammar of emoticons/emojis.
  3. Cultural, national, racial, age, gender differences in the use of emoticons/emojis.

If nothing else, answers to these questions would help me to understand what my niece is trying to say.


Posted on December 17, 2017, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. David, is this your final paper-related post? It doesn’t discuss your paper topic unless you meant to rely on your experience as a Baby Boomer to comment on how you deal with millennials in the workplace who are emoji users? Please clarify.

  2. That was my intent.

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