The Use and Abuse of Emoticons

Nasty, nasty emoticons. I admit that I have been using these ‘smileys’ for the longest time may be it via the internet or through SMS. I guess the fascination with these strings of characters started from different chatting platforms. You know, those custom smileys generated by chat windows.

Are these emoticons useful? Yes. I guess no one would have started the use of it if it serves no purpose, no matter how trivial, at all.

As I stated earlier, people started using these icons via different chatting platforms. It started when online chatting is about, well, just chatting. No video, no audio. I guess smileys were developed to serve as conversation ‘fillers’.


  • As an ice breaker.

I guess this one works. I can attest to that. This trick is very useful especially when an emoticon is used after a conversation was cut abruptly leading to the quintessential ‘BRB’ moment. The emoticon is used as a signal of availability of one party.

  • As a punctuation mark during awkward moments

Whenever you put yourself up online, you will never know when will an awkward moment come up. Emoticons would then be your best friend. Nothing speaks awkward more than a single smiley as a reply to ones message. The case can either be a.) “This has become so awkward that I shall end this conversation. *send smiley*”, or b.) “I really don’t care… *send smiley*”

  • As an attention grabber

This works like the ‘lyrics’ on your status updates. Nothing beats a frowning face in getting the attention you want. Then the inevitable “why’s?” will soon come flowing in. There you have it. You just earned the time of other people. Just brace yourself and your ego should nobody take notice of your bait.

See? There are some practical uses for these tiny horizontal faces.

But there are some things done with emoticons that I just can’t seem to understand.

There are impulsive emoticon users. These people use as many emoticons as they can in one go. If it’s a case of having multiple personalities or sheer confusion, then we’ll never know.

There are also exaggerated users who, due to the inability to express, put as much emotion indicators as they can. If an open parentheses means sadness and an open one’s for happiness, then these people put as many parenthesis to convey extreme (and over the top) happiness and/or sadness.

And then the basic emoticons have mutated to some complex and very confusing forms.


My decision to refuse using these emoticons actually serves as a test of some sort. I want to find out if emoticons have really become essential to online interaction.

Are my jokes going to be taken seriously minus the smiling face? Am I going to sound arrogant minus the emoticons in every single statement I make? Is my ‘thank you’ not showing enough gratitude without a colon and a close parentheses?

I believe that there’s no harm in using emoticons, it’s just that some have been very abusive that it becomes annoying at times. And in this era where everything is too clouded up by sugar-coatings, we would come to a point where we just want everything simple and raw. No need for emoticons, the caps lock key and a long queue of punctuation marks just to get our point across.