September 19th saw the thirtieth anniversary of the first ever use of ’emoticons’, with many taking the opportunity to celebrate.
Unsurprisingly, the first reported use of the the ubiquitous ‘smiley faces’ was made by a techie. Hoping to improve the understanding of e-bulletin board notes at Carnegie Mellon University, Scott Fahlman wrote:
“I propose the following character sequence for joke markers: :-)”
Having explained the symbol should be read sideways, the computer scientist continued:
“Actually, it is probably more economical to mark things that are NOT jokes, given current trends. For this, use :-(”
From this most simple application of keyboard characters, a new trend was born. It spawned many other variations on the theme and are now used across social media platforms throughout the world.
However, though the first use was intended to break down disambiguation, many believe they have gotten out of control.
One such commentator, Sam Leith, likened the spread of them to knotweed. The online advertising writer went on to say:
“Sparingly is the way to use them.”
This is a sentiment likely to be agreed with by many, particularly those writing SEO.
Whilst quite effective at conveying thoughts and feelings, too much emoticon use does get boring and annoying for readers.
As text strings are now converted to graphics, even their pioneer believes things have gone too far, as Fahlman said:
“…the big change has been [the] little round graphical faces…I had nothing to do with that, and don’t really like them.”
Basic text emoticons are ideal in some circumstances though, like Twitter, proving that they are still smiling after all these years 😀