Wednesday, March 10, 2010

War against emoticons

Truth be told, “Frowning At Smileys” was the headline in my mind until a Daily Telegraph article ended with this bleak portentous line, “In the future Shakespearean tragedies would be rewritten in a series of downcast emoticons”. Thus, the headline, which, to the uninitiated, is derived from Martin Amis’ sublime book “War Against Cliches”. Be it on gTalk, the Google equivalent of Yahoo! Messenger or on sms, my florid sentences aimed at the cerebral cortex of the recipient fail to register until they are followed by a miniature version of a Halloween pumpkin with gamut of emotions pasted on it.

If you are reading this then I don’t think I really need to delve into how a colon followed by bracket or a semi-colon for that matter or a colon followed by ‘p’ are supposed to represent your current state of mind. Thanks to the smileys I am always skeptical if the irony or sarcasm in my words is being noticed at all by the person, usually those of fairer sex, on the other side. Thus, I follow it with a smiling emoticon to convey the hilarity intended. In short, during this virtual communication people are in a verbal Jacuzzi – a pool of warm, swirling water, relaxing yet constantly moving and challenging – but only if smileys are there in the water.

For every intelligent remark that I make online or on sms I make it a point to tag a smiley along or, even worse, an exclamation mark. In my earlier job my editor’s thumb-rule while editing is to avoid exclamation marks. Why? It’s like laughing at your joke, he said. What about people who use at least three exclamation marks to convey the gravity of situation? Author Terry Pratchett said that everyone of those has a diseased mind(!).

I am no Luddite, by the way. I dig YouTube, I tweet my movie watching schedules, I update my Facebook status every nine hours (mostly I am a quote hanger there), until recently my religious views on Facebook was ‘pro-piracy’. I almost qualify as a poster child to that new saw making rounds, “I am only popular on the Internet”. My problem with the smileys is that they are making me feel inferior. While I am trying to woo (or whatever you kids call wooing these days) that ‘new’ Facebook friend with my Kevlar-like grip, suspend your disbelief for a while, over English, I am almost sure that the words would ring hollow until there’s a smiley lurking around.

For the record, I have no problem against swimming in the alphabetical soup of tsk tsk or lol or hehe or rotfl. I know that’s like quitting drinking, but making an exception for beer and hard liquor (I am so tempted to use a smiley, preferably the wink one, here). But then, dealing with bigger evil is of more important. For now, I hope there is an Alcoholics Anonymous or sex-rehab (a certain Mr Woods would attest to it) equivalent for shedding the addictive habit of mine to use smileys. Smiley patches may be?


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