The Hermeneutics of Text Conversations & Emoticons

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There's Facebook Chat, Whatsapp, LINE, Instagram, and a whole host of similar instrument for us to communicate in words, typed out. It seems like we need to increasingly intensify our expressions with CAPITALS, smiley faces :) and number of exclamation marks/question marks to get our point across - Yes I'm smiling for real and not just typing it with a poker face. There are also nuances in the ways we phrase our every expression - something the insensitive have to learn and the sensitive have to stop reading too much into.


Let's see, "lol/rofl/lmao/haha" are now the equivalent of conversation fillers. The original "laughing out loud" literally means laughing out loud, which is like a reaction to a very funny joke. But now it has reduced to a mere, space filler in times of awkward situations. No, it's not funny but you're trying to be polite. Seriously, sometimes people put lol at the most inappropriate places:


A: My pet turtle just died.

B: Oh lol are you okay?

Or,

A: I just had a fight with my Dad.

B: lol.. okay...


Which gets me riled up, what the hell is so "lol" about what I've just said?! And yes, lol often follows by "okay" which is the appropriate response. But it's just as if your right forefingers and middle fingers just doesn't feel good without tracing across that part of the keyboard. I actually stopped myself from sending inappropriate lols, but sometimes it just gets out before the enter leaks it out.

Then, "LOL/ROFL/LMAO/HAHA" is no doubt a notch higher, because you have to honestly be somewhat tickled to bother to press a Shift when you typed this conversation filler. You'll probably be smiling in your head, but your facial muscles haven't even twitched. Or you sense some effort of humour, and so it's another polite gesture to show some sort of reciprocation.

One exclamation mark: Sounds totally pretentious and fake. Imagine a conversation:

A: I bought this new top, nice or not? *inserts smiley emoticon*

B: Yes, it's nice!

as opposed to

A: I bought this new top, nice or not? *inserts smiley emoticon*

B: Yes, it's nice!!!!

You can see the difference immediately. The additional exclamation marks make B sound so much more enthusiastic and sincere. One exclamation mark makes B sound patronizing, insincere and possibly completely trying to be polite. But to be honest that's the supposed, perfect English. Or, one exclamation mark can mean - this sentence is supposed to be emotionally charged but I'm not really excited so I shall just put one exclamation mark.

One question mark: Sounds demanding and serious. Definitely not a suitable tone in a friendly, personal Whatsapp conversation. You might want to pair it up with another question mark or exclamation mark. Or best, with a friendly emoticon.

A1: Why did you call me?

Effect: "Why did you call me, you creep/stalker/annoying prick? I can't be waiting around my phone for you all day."

A2: Why did you call me??

Effect: "I am really sorry that I replied you so late, was there an emergency?"

A3: Why did you call me?! :)

Effect: "Was there some sort of a good news you want to share with me? *smile*"


Typed out emoticons (ie. :) :( :>) vs. emoticons with the face: On Whatsapp, when spamming emoticons is such a common activity, taking the extra seconds to type out a smiley face seems so much more sincere.




Overly elaborate emoticons vs. elaborate emoticons vs. normal emoticons

Overly elaborate emoticons like ( ・ω・)ノ――――@゜クルクル (means I'm playing with yoyo, for some reason I can't see) and (´・ω・)σ〃or (^ω^) means you copied it from somewhere else and totally trying to act cute.

Elaborate emoticons like >:D or ;D or ;_; - ie. emoticons that can be typed out pretty quickly but it's typed out because you really feel that this emoticon is apt for the situation - 100 marks for sincerity.

Normal emoticons like :) mandatory for polite situations. ;) - conspiracy wink/flirting. :D - a little funny and something quite cheerful. And so on. They are pretty mandatory in the conversation or your entire conversation will reflect what your face is truly like.


I realized that I've been typing rather emotionlessly, without a single actual smile on my face (rarely) especially when I'm alone in my room chatting with people. Even when I typed something like this:

"HAHAHA OMG THAT IS SO FUNNY. ;D"

I have hardly no expression. Poker faced. I still remember the first time I knew "lol" meant laughing out loud, I used it carefully such that I only used it in situations that are really pretty funny. And "rofl" only when I'm literally rolling on the floor laughing from the joke (the only few jokes that had the power). But now it's so ubiquitous, without it, you'll just be an emotionless prick. Which you are anyway.

Alright friends, don't scroll through our conversations in guilt or to scrutinise how I phrased each sentence. Aren't we all guilty? Or maybe I'm the only one reading too much into things. Or it's a girl thing. I don't know. Anyway, cheers, here's to no wrinkles. :)

EDIT:
 I realized a lot of people have been clicking into this post from Google Images to find images, png files, jpg files of a particular emoticon or the full set of Whatsapp smiley/ smileys/ emoticons. So here it is, even though it is not related to the post. You know I love you for clicking in! :)






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