Sunday, December 25, 2011

Emoticons Enhance Expression :)

Cross posted at Teaching Generation Text
Some critics of text messaging feel it is ineffective communication because it is void of emotion, lacking the message enhancements that tone of voice and nonverbal expression provide. Maybe those critics never received a love note. Yes, text messages are short, quick, and full of abbreviations. However, the back and forth nature of texting more closely resembles conversation than a note or letter. As we have seen, it is a combination of two forms of communication which has proven very appealing to teens and tweens. In addition to needing to find the right word to convey emotions A whole new means of communicating feelings and emotions has developed for use with texting called emoticons. Emoticons are symbols used to represent feelings. The use of emoticons in text messages makes them very effective in expressing the feelings that go with the words. In The Seattle Times David Silver, a University of Washington professor of communication who studies new media is quoted, “The beauty of language is that it’s infinitely morphable. The use of emoticons is amazing as a way of transmitting spoken language’s social nuances” (Dunnewind, 2003)

Of course, the nonverbals, which communicate much of the emotional content of a message, are not available in a text message. They have not been in e-mail, written letters, telegraph, or smoke signals either. Perhaps this condition encourages more expressive writing, better communication than a phone call or a face to face conversation, which can at times be too full of emotion. Rather than trying to read nonverbals, gain insight through tone of voice, or decipher feelings, in a text message we can use or see the feeling associated with the message through the use of an emoticon. 

There are websites that offer a glossary for emoticons. For example, at you can type in the emotion and search for the emoticon. This, however, can be a little time consuming, yet fun. There are shortcuts for emoticons for all of the major instant messaging and email sites, and most are also usable with cell phones. Many cell phones now come equipped with symbolic expressions such as various smileys. You may want to search around on your phone or ask your students to show you what is on their phones. You will find that any feeling necessary can be expressed in a text message, possibly more clearly than simple body cues, facial expressions, or tone of voice. Below is a list of common emoticons and the emotions they symbolize.

Emoticons and Emotions
X-( Angry
:-> Grin
Left-handed Sad Face
=) or :-) Happy
(-: Left-handed Smiley Face
O.o or :-S Confused
<3 Heart or Love
=/ Mad
B-) Cool
{ } Hug
^_^ Overjoyed
:_( or :'( Crying
:-| Indifferent
:-/ Perplexed
*-* Dazed
X-p Joking
=( or :-( Sad
:-( or :( Frown
=D Laughing Out Loud
:-P Sticking tongue out

Here is how Willyn Webb, co-author of Teaching Generation Text used emoticons in her practice as a guidance counselor. 
Text Talk: Classroom Stories

I've learned to pay attention to emoticons in students' messages. I had texted a girl I was concerned about when she was absent for four days in a row with a simple, "How are you?" She texted back: "fine :(" So I asked her why fine with the frown. She said she hadn't wanted to bother me, but she had found out she had cancer. Many times the emoticon offers enlightening information that can be addressed to fully support students.
For more ideas, resources, and workshops outlining effective ways to use cell phones in school check out Teaching Generation Text.

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