Five Reasons You Need to Break Your Emoticon Addiction

by Kristen on December 14, 2010 · 25 comments

If you’re like me, you probably thought Christmas had come early when an article begging us to stop using the emoticon popped-up on CNN.com. It’s not that I loathe the emoticon, per se…it’s just, well, I think we can all do better. Because really? Substituting a smiley, frown-y, crying, whatever-face for the words that could describe the feelings you’re feeling is just a cop-out. And so in an effort to help you break-free from your emoticon addiction, I encourage you to view the below list, check it twice, and think again before you hit shift, colon, parentheses.

  1. You Should Enjoy Using Your Words. You probably wouldn’t become a kindergarten teacher if you hated kids. Along the same lines of logic, you probably wouldn’t start a blog if you despised writing. So I’m often confused when I find blog posts that are riddled with emoticons. Did you not feel like you could adequately explain your emotions by using your words? I mean, if you enjoy writing enough to start a blog, you probably enjoy writing enough to explain that, today you are happy, or yesterday you were sad, or that you just want to stick your tongue out sometimes. In my opinion, half the joy of writing is finding a perfect yet creative way to say what’s on my mind. So I implore you, the next time you’re tempted to use one of those yellow-faces-of-doom, why not try showing us your writing prowess instead?
  2. We All See Right Through a Strategically Placed Emoticon. I see this a lot in the comments section of blogs when the beholder of a dissenting opinion tries to “soften the blow” (also known as, trying to avoid getting verbally assaulted by the blogger’s loyal blends) by sneaking in a toothy, virtual grin. It’s just so…transparent, kind of like Regina George telling you she loves your bracelet. If you disagree with a blog post, and choose to comment then you just need to own it. A responsible blogger knows that not everyone is going to agree with her 100 percent of the time, and when framed diplomatically, a differing opinion can spark a worthwhile conversation. So for Baby Jesus’s sake, don’t cheapen your comment with a totally gratuitous emoticon.
  3. You Need to Have More Faith in Your Readers. If your posts are sprinkled with wink-y faces because you’re convinced your readers won’t catch your sarcasm…you just need to stop. There’s one of two things going on here, and both are problems: either you have no faith in your audience (we’ll cover this issue here) or your sarcasm needs work (we’ll talk about this in the next one). Seriously though, you just have to have faith that your readers are intelligent people who can pick up on nuance. And if they’re not? Well, then they probably won’t be reading your blog for long, which is fine. Not every blog’s style is for every reader, so there’s no sense trying to reel in your skeptics by littering your blog with those, meaningless yellow faces.
  4. You Need to Work on your Sarcasm. Sometimes it’s hard to translate your spoken word into your written word, especially when you’re trying to convey sarcasm. I would know, because, in my real life I am constantly sarcastic, and so, in my blog life I try to be sarcastic as well. Most of time, it works like a dream, but occasionally? Not so much. Still, this is no excuse to resort to emoticons. There are a few things to keep in mind if you want to do sarcasm the right way — which obviously implies free of little winking men. First and foremost, it’s important to find your voice. If you’re not sarcastic in your daily life, chances are you’re not going to be very good at nailing sarcasm in your blog life, which is totally OK (this applies to other attributes besides sarcasm, too!) Then, it’s a matter of writing like you speak. Seriously, it’s that simple. When you go to write something sarcastic, think of how you would say it and write it just like that. Just like you need to have faith in your readers, you also need to have faith in yourself. And seriously, you wouldn’t wink to cap-off a sarcastic statement, would you? Exactly.
  5. Just Admit It, Emoticons are Kind of Creepy. Maybe it’s that I had a bad experience with an emoticon back in the day, or that I find their evolution from motionless, beta-creatures, to spinning, animated pseudo-faces just downright terrifying. But I seriously doubt that most of you can honestly say that you like emoticons. And if you can? Well then I ask that you read your post out loud and wink, or grimace, or full-mouth smile at yourself every time you stumble across one of your yellow friends. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll feel like a huge creep, because really? Nobody winks anymore…unless they’re creepy.

With 2011 barreling down the birth canal, I’m sure you’re on the lookout for some doable New Year’s Resolutions, so why not include one that’s super-easy and good for the blogosphere? I challenge you to banish emoticons from your blog life, even if it’s just for a little while. You can do it. I believe in you. And I bet you didn’t even need a wink-face to know I’m being slightly sarcastic.

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{ 23 comments }

Becca December 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Hmm. The sarcasm thing is tricky. We live in a multi-national blogging world, and yet somehow there are still a lot of people who don’t understand sarcasm. There are those who think that sarcasm is just randomly saying things that aren’t true – I encountered a blogger recently who thought that the phrase was genuinely “I could care less” because it was “sarcastic”. I had hoped that Daria was dead and buried, but alas, it appears not.

While I tend to minimise emoticon usage when blogging, I use them regularly on messageboards, Twitter and comments, as those are areas where you only have a short space in which to express yourself, and someone is only giving your words a quick glance before passing judgement.

I totally agree that we can’t fall over ourselves to pander to prospective readers, but when the tone of text can be so easily misread, it makes sense to limit the damage with a cheeky wink.

Regarding point 2 – my little sister hates emoticons, but seems to think that she can text the nastiest thing you’ve ever seen as long as she follows it with a kiss. I’ve learnt to laugh.
Becca´s last post ..How I Got Here… The Finance Post

Rachel Wilkerson December 14, 2010 at 2:34 pm

Ugh, I can’t deal with people who don’t understand sarcasm — there should be a special font for it. But every time I’ve encountered such people (in the real world and in the blog world), I’ve found the best thing is to teach them. By making fun of them when they don’t get it.

Emoticons are a crime against humanity. I get it on Twitter, in texts, etc. — but in a blog? No. Just…no.
Rachel Wilkerson´s last post ..The Little Box

Alli December 14, 2010 at 2:43 pm

THANK YOU. There’s a blog I read that would be 10000x better if she just stopped using emoticons after every. :) Single. 😉 Sentence. :0 You know? >:( Using a smiley face here or there isn’t bad, but when your entire webpage is populated by little yellow dots, it just smacks of laziness in my book.
Alli´s last post ..Sunday

zenlizzie December 14, 2010 at 2:56 pm

:) Love this :)
Haha no, but really. You make a lot of good arguments against using emoticons. I can usually edit my posts to avoid sounding so bitchy that I need to soften it with an emoticon, but if I’m leaving a comment for someone I don’t really know that well who doesn’t understand my sense of humor, I sometimes will. I’m sure it is the lazy way out.
I’ve been told that my sense of humor can come off as straight up bitch to people who don’t know me, and I know that tone can be misinterpreted online.

MelissaNibbles December 14, 2010 at 3:09 pm

:)

Kristen December 14, 2010 at 3:28 pm

@ZenLizzie – I think the whole “coming off too bitchy,” especially in comments, is a total girl thing. Would a guy EVER think to himself, “Hmm, that seems a bit harsh/maybe s/he won’t get my humor. You know what, I’ll put this little smiley face in there and it’ll make it ALL better?” No, he wouldn’t. But with girls there’s this constant walking-on-eggshells mentality that forces us to over-analyze what we’re saying and try to make things less offensive.(This is clearly another issue in and of itself.)

I totally feel you on the fact that there’s a fine line between bitchy and humorous, but I still think it’s important to make that line clear with words and not faces!
Kristen´s last post ..The 25 Days of Christmas Cookies Challenge- Day 7

D December 14, 2010 at 3:33 pm

My absolute pet peeve is when a blogger uses an emoticon to cover up a serious issue. Like, “Whoops, binged on fifteen cookies tonight…*bashful face*…” and we all know that they’re probably feeling terrible about themselves, but are trying to make the issue seem less or something.

Lauren at KeepItSweet December 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm

i am definitely guilty of overusing emoticons in comments… you are right though, it does get old. plus, if you use a smiley face all over the place it loses its meaning

Gracie December 14, 2010 at 5:16 pm

I respectfully disagree! As someone who studied communications, I’m actually fascinated by the emoticon-craze and think it can be used to one’s advantage. I’m not saying I’m an expert or that I’m “right” just because I studied communication, but it’s these new forms of expressing oneself in the age of media that I don’t think should be entirely dismissed.

You may have inspired me to wrote a post on emoticons myself, in fact!
Gracie´s last post ..veggieless

Kristen December 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm

@Gracie – The CNN article goes through the history of the emoticon, which, from a communications standpoint, is actually very fascinating, but I think over time, emoticons have come to be used as a crutch by a lot of bloggers. It’s like, instead of taking the time to craft a sentence about how you feel, you just slap an emoticon in there, which, in my opinion, cheapens your writing.

There are also a good handful of blogs that abuse emoticons like its their job. I mean, you can’t honestly tell me that every. single. sentence. warrants a smiley, wink-y, frown-y face, can you? It’s this type of blatant over-use that I have more of a problem with than people who use an emoticon here and there.

Regardless, I look forward to your post!
Kristen´s last post ..The 25 Days of Christmas Cookies Challenge- Day 7

Lisa December 14, 2010 at 6:53 pm

I try not to use it too much. Less than 2 or 3 in one post. Ideally one or none!!! There was a blog I stopped following because literally there was a smiley or frowney face after every sentence. It was so distracting!
Lisa´s last post ..Working Out With My Dad

shelby December 14, 2010 at 7:52 pm

I don’t mind the yellow smilies all that much, as long as they’re used sparingly. But you know what bugs me is this one: <3

I know it's supposed to be a heart but it always makes me think of boobs.

😀 (Just for good measure!)

Aj December 14, 2010 at 7:56 pm

This post inspired me to do a quick review of my recent posts! In those that show up on my homepage, I used one emoticon. Not bad, considering I am pretty sarcastic. I think with my blog I feel comfortable taking a “if you don’t like it, leave it” approach. I think I take my mom’s advice about using profanity to emoticons: every now and then, they may be called for, but very often they reflect an inability to clearly articulate what you are feeling and in those cases a clear articulation is much more powerful.

Also, many bloggers are also excellent photographers, I think if I lack the words for emotional expression (although I am very rarely lacking in words for anything!) I use a picture. As in, an actual photograph, that can adequately convey what I am trying to express. I am very much inspired to do this by Rachel, who is excellent at using photos on her blog to convey the emotion of an event!
Aj´s last post ..Monday Fun Day- Before and After Pictures

Kendra December 14, 2010 at 8:43 pm

I less than three this post.

I’ve always thought that emoticons were a total cop out. You won’t find a single one on my blog unless it was a typo or unless I posted in an absinthe induced haze. Even then… no.

And I agree with Rachel, those who don’t know how to use or understand sarcasm must be taught.
Kendra´s last post ..2484lbs- Not Really

Bess December 14, 2010 at 8:55 pm

I could not agree more! Emoticons to try to make light of something potentially very serious bug me to no end.
Bess´s last post ..A Week in Food Highs- Vegan Thai- Sweet Potato Fries and Clara’s Cakes OH MY!

Rachel Wilkerson December 15, 2010 at 1:59 am

I’m genuinely puzzled by the idea of limiting it to a certain amount per post. Why not just limit it to zero per post? I’ve been blogging for five years and I’ve never used a single one. Ever. Like, I don’t go back and delete them before I hit publish. It’s never even occurred to me to use one. I remember setting up my Wordpress blog and it gives you the option to convert the symbols to the little yellow creeps, and I just thought, Why is this a question? Why on earth would you ever have emoticons in a blog post?

Want people to understand your sense of humor? Make a vlog. Hearing you talk will let people know how you talk, what your style is, and what you consider a joke. But by relying on emoticons, you’re sending a message that your sense of humor is…well, maybe not your strong point. Like Kristen said, have faith in yourself…or just don’t try to be funny or sarcastic online.

Emoticons look juvenile and undermine your authority. If you can’t accurately convey your emotions in words, maybe you can take a photo of yourself making all those ridiculous faces and insert them in your post every time you want to use an emoticon. Oh wait, some people do that and that’s REALLY obnoxious as well. Soooo maybe the best thing we can do is just USE OUR WORDS.
Rachel Wilkerson´s last post ..The Little Box

Mary (A Merry Life) December 15, 2010 at 2:17 am

:) 😀 😉

Mary (A Merry Life) December 15, 2010 at 2:26 am

Is it weird that less than three has significant meaning to me and my fiance? Oh noes… I’m to internety! Can that be a word? It seems to fit with emoticons.

Mary (A Merry Life) December 15, 2010 at 2:28 am

Do comments not nest here? I am saddened. Guess I’ll just leave a ton of comments then that may or may not appear completely silly since they are not following the comment they were meant for.

Anyway.

I actually like smiles, but can’t stand the little yellows faces. It reminds me of AIM chats from my middle school days. AHH!

Bess December 15, 2010 at 2:36 am

It also bugs me to no end that every time I type in 8) on a blog post, it turns into the cheesiest Emoticon…not sure if it’s just Wordpress but that shit is bananas!
Bess´s last post ..A Week in Food Highs- Vegan Thai- Sweet Potato Fries and Clara’s Cakes OH MY!

Bess December 15, 2010 at 2:36 am

that was meant to be a #8 but then it turned into an emoticon…see what I’m talking about.
Bess´s last post ..A Week in Food Highs- Vegan Thai- Sweet Potato Fries and Clara’s Cakes OH MY!

Cynthia (It All Changes) December 15, 2010 at 3:09 am

I’m guilty of this. I’m an overly smiley person in general so I add the smiley faces a lot.

Since I started writing in my voice I notice less of them but I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of them. Also I’m the crazy person who takes pictures of me making funny faces. It is my humour so I like it. :-)

Maryea @Happy Healthy Mama December 19, 2010 at 2:28 am

I always wondered what “greater than three” meant! It’s a heart?

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