A smile here, a hug there... A frown here, a wink there... Smileys have become an inevitable part of our texting lingo

In this age of technology, text messaging has become the most common form of communication. Texting helps us keep our conversations simpler. But, when we find it difficult to convey our emotions through words alone, emoticons come to the rescue. And thanks to the advent of smartphones, not just smiles and frowns, today we have a whole range of emoticons and symbols to choose from — think animal faces, raised hands, glittering stars…!

Saying a lot!

Emoticons help a lot in conveying one’s mood. Sample this — ‘:(’ conveys ‘I’m sad / upset’ as effectively as ‘:D’ says ‘I’m happy / thrilled / delighted’. The best thing about emoticons is how one emoticon can replace an entire sentence! Try this. If you want to meet up with a friend for coffee, all you need to do is use the ‘steaming cup of coffee’ emoticon with a question mark. A perfect replacement for ‘Do you want to catch up over a cup of coffee?’

Even better, thanking your friends for surprising you on your birthday — nothing says it more warmly than a ‘big hug’ emoticon. Emoticons, in addition to keeping texts shorter, can make communication exciting — for both the sender and the receiver. Think of a drab ‘Happy Birthday’ text as against one that comes loaded with symbols of cakes, party hats, a glass of wine, gifts, balloons, and hearts.

Interestingly, emoticons can sometimes even help in conveying the meaning of a text accurately. For instance, a text that goes, ‘I need to speak to you’ may cause the receiver some anxiety. However, throw in a smiley, and the receiver knows there’s nothing to worry about.

The flip side

While emoticons are by and large useful, they have their disadvantages too. A lot of people are increasingly depending on emoticons to express themselves. Many do not make an effort to type proper sentences; they cut it down to a few words and leave it to the smileys to do their job. As a result, the written word suffers. Further, smileys can have a negative impact on the sender when used in formal and professional exchanges. Also, excessive use can be annoying to the text receiver.

However, even though they have their flip side, emoticons have definitely changed the way we communicate through phones. And looks like they are here to stay.