Smileys Turn 25 — :(

March 14, 2007

You know that you’re getting up there in years when you can remember things like ASCII images, the first smileys, and chatting through CompuServe. I’m starting to sound just like my parents.

“In my day, sonny, we had to make do with a 300 baud modem and a Commodore 64. You kids just don’t know how good you have it.”

I’m really not much of an instant-messenger person, but I use it because the younger folks that I work with pretty much expect to be able to talk to me any time I’m at the keyboard. I can barely manage one session at a time, but they have several windows open and can somehow keep it all straight. (I’d end up gossiping to someone about themselves, I know it.)

But when I read that the Smiley has turned 25, I had to smile. Originally an “in” way to to show you were in the know the technology, it got old long ago. But most of the new IM clients allow you to pick from hundreds. One person that I “talk” with even uses animated GIF Smileys that roll, jump and generally make fools of themselves.

Do we need this to let people know what we’re thinking? How we’re feeling? I hear often from people that in our connected world, the other person can’t possibly know if we’re joking — or angry, or amused, or fearful. Without the personal interaction, they say, there’s just no way.

I suspect that James Michener just might be surprised at that. Or Ernest Hemingway. Or Shakespeare. (First artist to be known by one name, I think.) They managed to communicate a raft of emotions and feelings without a single parenthisis or colon.

Let’s see if we can go 25 years without them, just to see.



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