Tuesday, October 14, 2014

How Emoticons rule the world

There was a time when silence was the consequence of loss of not knowing what to say.
When you were speechless, or overwhelmed, overjoyed, or saddened, shamed, or agitated to the point of not being able to articulate or not finding the right words to express your extreme emotions, you kept quiet - your eyes did the emoting, your body language took the conversation forward, maybe a mumble or an yell helped you out.
Do you realize what this silence has been replaced by today?
The Emoticons!

Before, the only emoticon we knew was the smiley on the yellow ball. Smiley was capable of only one emotion - smiling. That was the range of Smiley's expression.

Now, there is one for every emotion, happiness, disgust, sadness, joy, confusion, anger. There is the face doing the smirk, or being the devil, or being unwell.
The emoticons have gone beyond the yellow smiley face.
There are caricatures telling the other person how busy you are drinking, eating, holidaying or in the bathroom, at work or at the swimming pool.

Emoticons are a prettily wrapped, practical gift for people with few words, you don't have to talk and you do not come across as being rude! Its a win win situation
They are also, though somewhat redundant, an aid for people who love expressing their emotions wildly. They have caused the death of the "exclamation mark."

I set out to experiment. 
One whole day, every time, i used whats app, i would use only smileys or symbols, and see if i could take a conversation forward or would the conversation come to a halt and words would have to be used?
By the end of the day i was surprised at how much easier it was to convey with emoticons than use words. How is it possible to wrap up my entire day and my interactions with numerous people on that day with the help of a mere 100 symbols, signs and smileys. And here we are thinking that we are complex animals who are certainly more complicated than a 100 symbols.  How complacent of us! Every emotion we feel, every action we do, the food we eat can be denoted with the help of a single image. In that case, what do we mean by individuality? 

Maybe, individuality stems from the degree of emotion - maybe the happiness i feel is different in degrees than the happiness the person sitting next to me might feel. But a quick look at the emoticons and i know that is not the case - they have covered every happiness degree - from the straight smile, to the sightly happier smile, to the embarrassed smile, and the wink smile, to the final "laughing till tears fall out" smile. All possible degrees are covered.

So is it our communication skills that differentiate us?
What we feel is more or less the same, the thing that makes me - me, is how i articulate my emotions - either with my words or my gestures, my tone and my body language. 
Which takes me back to my article of importance of Direct Connections - of how in the world of virtual avatars and interactions, we tend to crave direct human connections.

Plus, i keep wondering how genuine are the emoticons? If a person is sad that he/ she is not attending my party, they send a depressed smiley face. And i am thinking, if you are really that depressed about missing my party, you should probably come anyway!
Or say the recent idea of wishing a very happy birthday with beer glasses, and cake and partying symbols on whats app. I would rather like a phone call to accompany all the fake celebration. It is my firm belief that people who genuinely remember your birthday and want to wish you will call you. The others message. 
And when i get a message / Facebook post like that, i more often than not don't remember it or do not respond to it.

The other downside being, for some reason i feel the emoticons are very personal.
To convey sadness to a random person, i would never think of writing "i am sad or hurt". I would probably brush it aside and say i am fine.
But with an emoticon i can easily send the sad smiley. Do i really want a random person to know the  states of my deepest emotions? No!

It is said the pen is mightier than the sword, and now the emoticons look like they are winning the battle of communication. 
But it looks like a case of winning the battle, losing the war, with more and more of us moving away from the virtual world and back into our real, interpersonal universe of direct connections!

1 comment:

  1. "If a person is sad that he/ she is not attending my party, they send a depressed smiley face." Were you talking about our mutual friend who has a penchant for perpetually ditching us ?

    The generally held belief is that the growth and advent of Technology is driving marginal languages to extinction and is adulterating their purity, structure, and grammatical integrity but there multiple perspectives on this. The advent of technology is actually giving vanishing languages a larger audience .
    As far as the Adulteration of Languages in concerned, languages have been perpetually adulterated over the ages. With increased frequency of communication, and changing tools of communication adulteration has been been an ever occurring phenomena. When people discovered an easier tongue than the Archaic Grammar usually found in Shakespearean sonnets, the quickly took to it. Similarly Eubonics was also responsible for the introduction of certain adulterations in our languages due to the large audience of RAP and Hip-Hop in the late 80's and 90's.
    The adulteration of our language is much more visible nowadays because as opposed to earlier tools of communication and distribution of media because now the primary tools are Interactive and the turn-around time is really short.
    Communication will become more visual/virtual over the next decades until the point of Technical Singularity where spoken, written word may no longer be necessary - Sahil