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Gregg McBride

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Is Using Emoticons in Emails Really the Downfall of Civilization?

Posted: 06/26/2012 9:43 am

Given that the presidential race is heating up, I'm surprised that one of the biggest and most controversial topics has not come to light as part of the national debate. I speak of course as whether to or not to use emoticons when sending emails.

I must admit that I have always been a fan of the 'smiley face' -- even before email became such a common part of everyday life. In personal, handwritten notes (and on greeting cards), I'm often adding a circle, two dots and a semi circle to indicate that I'm signing off with love and happiness (cue the nutty-crunch music)! Even when doing this handwritten version of the 'little smiley guy,' some people have teased me -- with one friend even going so far as to simulate the sound my little smiley face is making (a sarcastic "Ehhhh" sound for those wondering).

With the onslaught of daily emails (both personal and professional), the debate has raged on as to whether using emoticons is immature, silly or a waste of time. Even The Today Show weighed in on the topic. Matt Lauer and others came out against the use of emoticons, noting that many consider their use very unprofessional and somewhat vapid (even titling their piece, "Are Emoticons the 'Downfall of Civilization?").

Recently, all of this public criticism and mockery began to take hold over my happy, smiley-faced heart. I noticed that I began to use fewer and fewer smiley faces and/or winking smiley faces in my emails. I was embarrassed that I was pro-emoticon and suddenly felt like I did back during my school days (like a fat kid who just wasn't fitting in -- both figuratively and literally).

[Insert frown-y face here.]

Then, one day, I decided enough was enough. I wasn't going to let Matt Lauer or anyone else dictate that I was never to write another email with a happy heart and joyful attitude. Thus, my smiley face emoticons were reborn -- and reintroduced into my daily missives to both friends and business associates. Why should I hide the fact that I'm in a good mood and want to wish whomever I'm writing a happy day through a silly little emoticon? Thus, I'm now not only adding them to my emails, but also making sure even my Facebook posts and twitter tweets feature a smiley face or even (gasp!) a heart from time to time.

Now mind you, I try not to overuse emoticons. I don't want them to appear meaningless or as part of my constant email persona. But I do sprinkle them in from time to time -- in hopes they help to communicate the tone of my emailed message.

And no, I'm not trying to offend Matt Lauer or anyone else who is bugged by the little guys. But at the same time I want to be true to myself and to the joy in my heart: The joy I try to spread and encourage throughout my -- and everyone else I come into contact with's -- day. The emoticons make me happy. And sometimes, they even communicate my sadness or frustration (with a frown-y or baffled face - see above).

Now that I think about it, it might be better that our current presidential candidates aren't weighing in on what would surely be a lightning rod type of debate (in terms of potential divisiveness). I suppose that the non-emoticon users and I will have to agree to disagree. But even when disagreeing, I'm going to add a little burst of happiness in the form of a smiley face. Not just because it's true to my nature, but because I really do want to lend a smile to whatever scenario (or email) I can.

[Insert happy face here.]

Where do you stand on the emoticon issue? Do you use them? Abhor them? Or are you neutral? Do tell by adding your comment below (with or without a smiley face -- your choice).


 

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