Eats, shoots and leaves.

Watching the snooker on telly, you realise how much of human communication relies not just on content of speech, but body language too. I guess we all have been confronted by this problem while texting a message to someone we don’t know all that well; should we joke?, will they understand it?, etc. Hence the popularity of smileys to clarify the situation. The commentators on the television speak authoritatively about what options are left to a snooker player, and what balls it is wise to play because the white ball ends up in such-and-such a position, and a miss will still entail a difficult pot for the opponent. What I noticed is that a lot of their confident statements like “Yes, the pink will go on its spot, but the red next to it will still go in the middle pocket” are based not as much on their experience of positions and angles as ex-players, as on the fact that they are in the hall watching the players prepare to take the pot on. Which signals to them that, at the very least in the players’ eyes, the ball can be played.

Thinking upon it, I wonder whether the use of smileys in textual communication is indicative of the communicator’s inability to verbalise their message adequately. Is it possible that the more smileys and similar shortcuts one uses, the less capability they have to express themselves in plain words? Or is it that the communicator is actually a highly gregarious animal to whom the message is more than just words, and the presence of smileys is essential because the message is more personal?

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  1. I hate all bloody commentators.

    I use smilies alot, just because I worry that I won’t be understood if I am making a joke. I find I can type something sarcastic, but it’s hard to tell if I am being jokey or not without hearing me. I find smilies get me out of alot of trouble 😉

  2. Smileys are a legacy of the IRC era (in which I once lived). Back then, voice and video transmissions were unheard of, and most text messages had to confine themselves in one line. Pretty much like free sms that are hard to type (wouldn’t it be nice). The obvious thing to do then was to condense actions that happen concurrently with speech in a conversation into what became smileys.

    Since then technology evolves and smileys became these stupid yellow things due to Microsoft adding them on MSN.


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