Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Emoticon: An Evolution



Sometimes, there really are no words. That’s when I use a smiley. This is the same, well similar, smiley to the ones that made me cringe when guys I've dated inserted them at the end of text messages or punctuated emails with them. Yep, I've dated guys that use emoticons. Note the emphasis in dated. It went something like this: Him: “Girl, you so sexy ;)” Me: Vomit in mouth, compliment rejected. Ultimate deal-breaker. Thankfully, I haven’t dipped so low as to pull out a winking smile. Yet. Yet? Who am I?


How did this digression begin? I want to know! I used to be a normal, uptight, proud, non-user of the smiley. I can’t truly say the same about alcohol. But I used to feel better than the people that relied on emoticons to express their emotions. I’m a writer. Get it? I don’t need punctuation unless I’m trying to write a stupid poem, or be crafty with my sentences. But fashioning commas and colons into things that resemble faces? Never.


Emoticons had their heyday, I believe it was somewhere in the late ‘90s slash early 2000’s. They once were even surrounded by bright yellow circles. And peace signs. The days when I had a pager. Even when I got a cell phone, even when I was a wee child of 15, I never used smileys! If anything, their popularity has dwindled in recent years, but for whatever reason I have encountered the emoticon maybe more than the average bear, and where what should be a safe-area; the dating world. I must be being punished for some transgression in a previous life. The powers that be were like, 'funny joke- let's send lots of little doodling girls of seven disguised as big strong men her way. HAHAHA.'


But these tricky little conniving symbols that were once the ultimate deal-breaker for dating purposes have crept into my heart and built a nest out of their parentheses and inserted themselves into my communication repertoire. I feel like such a hypocrite. Really, now that I think about it, my cultural tastes have taken a nose-dive in the past few months. And I don’t know who is to blame. Maybe my friend that shoved a Twilight book down my intellectual throat and turned me into an avid series fan. I’m so low-brow I’m pubic hair and loving every minute of it. But I’m a hypocrite.


However much I bemoan my recent smiley acquisition, I’d much rather look at my use of emoticons as an evolution, one where I become a little more like my peers and a little less like Jane Austen. I remember the first time I used one, as if it’s a special day bound to go down in the history of ‘My Life’. I had just started working at a cool, extremely low key website where I was congratulated daily on being hungover and unproductive, and I invited all my handsome new co-workers to my upcoming roof party via email. My editor, whom I was dying to sleep with, responded with a soul-crushing ‘blah, blah, can’t make it unfortunately, blah, blah.’ My disappointment rendered me speechless, my fingers unable to type a witty response to save face. So I simply emulated my face and with a swift four key move I replied with :(


From there it’s been a slippery slope. My friend wrote me a Facebook post alerting me that he had come to Brooklyn and forgotten to call me. My response :( After the initial cherry was popped I turned into a super smiley slut, and now, it seems appropriate to up the ante, let this lonely sad face carry more weight. Like when I recently spent 48 hours of my life writing a passionate 2800 word article, headed nowhere fast, and after I pitched it to my dream venue, and got shot down, instead of maintaining my few shreds of dignity, I simply shot back a :(


Obviously I have noted that my emoticon use has been limited to the simple sad face. So, this punctuated mirror to my life should be alerting me that I am awfully dreary. If my text messages were really being tracked by the clouds, or Rupert Murdoch, my phone would have therapists around New York texting me daily with hotlines for help. Or maybe it's just that I still feel excitement can be better expressed with a good old fashioned exclamation point (though be careful not to use more than one per few sentences, lest you end up writing a note worth passing during your high school French class). Why not shit on sadness with a stupid sad face- but happiness? I prefer mine uninterrupted; enjoyed authentically, a good belly laugh, without the aid of dots and semicircles. Who needs to see a smile when you've got the excellent acronym LOL! Mouth open, eyebrows raised, it just rolls off your tongue and smacks you happy.

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Born and raised under the Los Angeles sun and smog. At sixteen spent some time in LA County Juvenile Detention Center, although never really learned her lesson. Moved to Boston for the classic college experience. Spray painted graffiti in the Paris Metro during six month stay in the Marais. Survived an ultra fabulous and frightening internship at Vogue Magazine while living at a nunnery in Hell's Kitchen. Lived a year in Seoul, a city which can only be compared to a Disneyland theme park. Written four hundred sixty-four words of an undisclosed masterpiece novel. Currently pondering her next adventure and also the meaning of her memoirs from an artist's loft in dirty Brooklyn.