Another name for a smiley, an emoticon is a pictorial representation of someone’s emotions, used within electronic communications such as e-mail or instant messaging.
Originally, emoticons were simply a sequence of keyboard characters which, when put together, resembled a common expression. For instance, 🙂 represented a smile or happiness, while 🙁 was used to represent sadness or consternation. Eventually actual pictures were used in place of these character combinations. In fact, if you type either of these combinations into most e-mail or instant messaging clients, your typing will automatically be replaced by the picture version.
There are now hundreds of emoticons available to express every type of feeling, and each communication platform has its own unique take on emoticons.
Also See: Smileys
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I have to know the character combinations to add emoticons to my online communications?
Most programs now have a toolbar option specifically for emoticons. It usually features an icon shaped like a smiley face. Clicking on the icon should bring up a list of every emoticon available for that specific program. If you don’t want to take the time to search through all of those options, typing the traditional character combinations will usually still work. Many programs also feature several other emoticons that can be automatically created using character combinations. To find out which combinations work in your favorite app, check it’s help menu.
Are emoticons only faces?
Traditional emoticons stick with facial expressions only; however, many programs have begun to include other pictures as well. You can find anything from hearts, angels, devils, and even poop emoticons. Some programs even offer specialty emoticons featuring the traditional range of emotions expressed through cats, dogs, and other characters.
What if I don’t know what an emoticon means?
You wouldn’t be the first. Online, text-based communication is quick, fun, and incredibly useful, but it is not flawless. One of the biggest drawbacks to any text-based communication (electronic or pen and paper) is that it’s hard to convey emotions the same way we can when speaking. For instance, telling someone you love her shoes may mean two completely different things if said in an excited tone compared to a sarcastic tone. Emoticons are an attempt to bring these same inflections to text, but they’re not perfect. If you’re trying to be sarcastic, you might add a wink at the end of a statement. Of course, wink can also mean you’re being flirty. Some emoticons are more clear than others, some mean different things in different contexts, and some don’t make any sense at all. If you’re not sure what someone it trying to say, don’t be afraid to ask.