Jason B. Ladd

Author | Apologist | Entrepreneur

Smiley Face Courage: How Emoticons Wash Away Our Guilt

smiley face

I did not receive smiley faces from one blog moderator after leaving a comment for another forum participant.  I violated a cardinal sin of professional forum etiquette:

I made a snarky comment.

I asked a valid question and thought I was being clever.  But it didn’t matter.  It could easily be taken as insulting, and it was taken that way by the moderator.  I acted like a troll (and I didn’t even know what a troll was).  I immediately felt bad and apologized to the moderator.

The “have a nice day” symbol can be used as a badge of immunity giving typers and texters license to kill any accusations of troll-dom.

You may have never heard of smiley face courage.

How about liquid courage?  Alcohol loosens inhibitions and can make you do things you might not normally do.

Smiley face courage allows you to say things you might not normally say.

Emoticons can be cute (so they tell me).  They can be annoying.  They can become internet aloe dressed over salted wounds.

Internet technology has put more distance between communicators than ever before.  It’s also made it faster and easier than ever to connect with people.smiley

There are two dangers in communicating in real-time by text alone:

  1. There’s less time to think about your responses.
  2. Smiley face courage allows you to say what you might not normally say face to face.

Communication is more than the written language.  With the rise of e-mail, people quickly learned how much was lost in translation when inflection is limited to italics, caps, and number of exclamation points.  Personal communication suffers when body language is absent.

This is usually not a problem  with light-hearted conversation.  But it can be harmful to a productive discussion about sensitive topics.

We’ve all experienced it: someone types something insulting, rude, or just plain hurtful.

But wait!  They put a smiley face at the end!

For a moment you might have thought that person was out of line.

But they did include a winky face . . .

Here are three guidelines which will free you from the need for yellow-headed atonement:

  1. Think before you type, especially if talking about sensitive topics.
  2. Look at the possible interpretations.  Re-write your thoughts if necessary.
  3. When in doubt, strike it out.  There’s no reason you can’t practice using tact in person or on the internet.  If you can’t find anything nice to say, follow the old adage.  (Maybe that explains the dearth of communication I’ve been receiving . . .)

So that’s the solution to emoticon abuse.  Don’t be part of the problem! 🙂

What’s your key to effective internet communication?

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Photo credit: NicoleAbalde / Foter / CC BY-ND

Photo credit: ijustwanttobeperceivedthewayiam / Foter / CC BY-SA




About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

16 Replies

  1. Lynne

    Hi, Jason! Don’t be too hard on yourself as we all are misconstrued, slip up, or are misunderstood at one time or another. Well written article, though! It is true that one should pause and think on line, I often hold my post for a night, especially when I am uncertain or questioning myself. I am not a saint and have commented or posted and then wondered if the online comment/post might be misconstrued. I only recently discovered emojiis (SP?) and stick to the “castle”-LOL. My kids “hate” it when I place an emojii at the end of an email. Never really “liked” the Smiley Face anyways. It always looks a bit cheeky.

    1. Yes, always best to let posts and comments simmer until ready!

  2. RebornJumpman

    Well said sir. I’ve been online since I was 10-years-old back in good ol’ 1996 and I find what you said about the emergence of emoticons to compensate for the lack of body language quite true. They are annoying to be sure, but they’ve really developed over the last 17 or 18 years into a sort of online vernacular that goes without saying. Especially the winky face… that stupid winky face… ^_^ Thanks for the post!

    1. Glad for the feedback. ’96 was a good year for me. I was courting the woman I would later marry! She creates real smiles.

  3. Chris

    less is more and in-person is always better.

  4. Mollie

    Wow, I hadn’t thought much about it, but you are right. It’s a lot like when you’re driving and say things to other drivers that they can’t hear- things you’d never say face to face. (At least, I sometimes do this!)

    1. Mollie, Thanks for the comment, and the road rage confessional!

  5. adeline

    Nominating you for this award: Most Influential Blogger Award.

  6. littledogslaughed

    Very thoughtful post-I had to laugh too-I never used emoticons–ever-until I started blogging and they are insidious-now I find my replies punctuated with little yellow heads on most of my comments-after reading this, it has made me rethink that a little yellow head once in awhile can go a long ways and nothing really replaces the power of words-used thoughtfully-
    Thank you too for stopping by Move the Chair-I appreciate you taking the time to look-and I look forward to reading more of your work-

    1. I’m glad you were able to laugh. Smileys can be used for the of good, too.

  7. Rob Hudelson

    Great post Jason. Great humility. Good content. Thanks!

    1. appreciate it. Thanks for visiting!

  8. Brad Volz

    Well said Jason, I like the acronym, THINK, Is what I’m about to write,speak or do…
    True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind?

    1. great acronym! Easy to remember