In-depth: Reading Emoticons

By Maggie Devereux
Online Managing Editor
In Depth this issue dealt with how to interpret body language, read other people, and sarcasm. All three of these topics can also be related to something every teenager does every day. Text.
Communicating through text messages makes everything faster. You can get a hold of someone faster, express what you need to say faster and reach more people hitting one send button then you could ever accomplish face to face. However, communicating through texts has one pretty big problem– it lacks your tone of voice, facial expressions and social cues that let the person you’re talking to know if you are pleading with them, yelling at them or flat out flirting with them.
For example, “I hate you.” It can mean so much more than how it sounds. It can mean “please do something for me so I don’t have to hate you”, “I literally hate you so leave me alone” or “I hate you but am in love with you”. 
Luckily, the world has been graced with emoticons to guide your audience into the correct context of what you’re saying.
Yet many people chose to abuse the wonderful powers emoticons have given us. They are so simple to use–most phones even have circular yellow smiley faces with the expression– that they are often overused or used incorrectly. So in order to help you, and possibly save you some embarrassment, here is the breakdown of different emoticons, what they come across as meaning and when it is appropriate to use them.
  🙂 The Smiley: The smiley is the most popular of emoticons simply because it can be applied to almost every friendly conversation. In my opinion, the smiley can be used almost limitlessly when trying to come across as really nice or thankful for something such as homework help or talking to someone you aren’t best friends with but are friendly enough. However there are a few warnings you should be aware of.

  • The smiley should be sent only about once a conversation in these situations
  •  Avoid the multiple exclamation point/smiley face combo. This comes across weird unless it’s someone you’re really close with. I’d suggest either an exclamation mark OR a smiley is the best general rule of thumb.
  • If you are talking to someone that might not understand your humor, smiley faces can really help to let someone know when you’re being sarcastic. Otherwise they might just assume you’re serious and a mean person. So don’t be afraid to throw smileys in whenever this applies. And speaking of sarcasm, have you read the Sarcasm column in this week’s Prospector yet?

 😉 The Winky: In most cases, the winky face is used in flirtatious situations. Oh you mean this is some way other than what you’re actually saying? Throw in a winky face to steer that special someone on the other end in the right direction. Just as some people don’t understand sarcasm, some people don’t understand when they’re being flirted with. As always, there are warnings.

  • Make sure the other person is ready to receive the winky. You need to be confident that the other person wants to flirt back, or have a sarcastic conversation. Otherwise, you just look plain creepy.  
  • Do not overuse the winky. Once you have established a flirtatious setting to the conversation, it isn’t necessary to send 😉 after 😉 after ;). Trust me, that person gets it.  

 😛 The Tongue: There has been a lot of debate over this emoticon. While many agree on it meaning “Nananabooboo” (like sticking your tongue out and laughing at someone in a playful way), there has also been suggestions of “Yummy” (like licking your lips because something tastes good)    
 😀 The I’m Really Happy: A big no-no. Don’t. Ever. Unless you are completely kidding and are using it as a total joke, it’s not appropriate. In 99% of situations 🙂 is plenty appropriate. Throwing out a 😀 just makes you look weird. -Kiley Walsh 
:* The Kissy: The kissy is probably my favorite face. It’s the cutest one, obviously, but it can’t be used to often. The only time the kissy is used is when you’re texting one of your closest friends and you want to send something that sounds like “mwah” (like a kiss sound). I use it after I say something jokingly mean to let that person know I still love them. However in actual girlfriend to boyfriend situations it’s too lovey-dovey to send.
 :] The Box-like Smile: This one’s pretty plain and simple. No one had two sticks pointing up on each side of their mouth, therefore the emoticon shouldn’t either. A “)” works just fine, so this one’s on the avoid list.
 🙂 The Nose: Completely unnecessary. Obviously faces have noses. So taking the time to press the “-” button is a waste of half a second. When I receive this, it makes me wonder why the person felt the need to add in the nose.  
🙁 The Frowny: We all have those days where we just feel horrible and feel the need to excessively complain/vent to a friend. However I would suggest only using the frowny when responding to someone else’s story. The frowny has come to mean nearly the same thing as the Oh No, except I would say the Oh No is more applicable to nearly any situation. 
:/  The Oh No: See The Frowny
:} The Squiggly: Your guess is as good as mine.