With Valentine’s Day in the recent past, we were musing about expressions of like and love in these e-days. If not before.
Few realize that, even before Internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee was born, Morse Code and Puck magazine and satirist Ambrose Bierce all talked about love and kisses and vertical emoticons and snigger points. Though a Carnegie Mellon University student might have proposed the idea in the 1980s, today, emoticons – and their Japanese smartphone cousins, emoji – have become world-wide substitutes for saying how we feel, digitally. Teens we know use these pictographs extensively in texts (in fact, often without words). And yes, we’ll admit a guilty pleasure in occasionally using a smiley or frowny or LOL symbol when we’re e-talking with good friends and colleagues.
Think with us, though. How frequently do these symbols truly portray what we’re up to emotionally, in the moment? Is it easy to show our concerns or fears within our smartphones or Outlook or Lotus Notes? Have your colleagues misunderstood your intent within the message’s content? And if so, how long did it take you to explain what you meant?
That’s been the task lately of USC’s Annenberg Innovation Lab, charged with interpreting political sentiments of Twitter feeds. The most difficult analysis, says a spokesperson, is determining sarcasm. The computer does so in a unique combination featuring human and data-mining services, but not always successfully.
Remedies run from adopting new pictographs (yet another visual to remember!) to avoiding the sentiment altogether. One reason to discontinue these pictures: Researchers have discovered that millennials and younger tweeters use emoticons sarcastically as well as to show a lack of feeling altogether.
No surprise: But why don’t we, as the ultimate communication and marketing professionals, set the new standard? Like picking up the phone. And meeting face to face.