Emoticons used to express emotions, tone
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 22, 2013 19:04
Sophomore Andrew Carbonaro said emoticons can change the entire mood of a conversation. For him, a well-placed wink says it all.
“It doesn’t need to have sexual connotations,” Carbonaro said. “[They] can help display sarcasm too.”
A recent study from Rice University showed most people use emoticons to display emotions when they text. Researchers gave participants free iPhones to use four six months and afterward they analyzed 124,000 messages from smartphone data from men and women and found that 100 percent of participants used emoticons when they texted. Out of the 74 emoticons the participants used, those for happy, sad and very happy accounted for 70 percent of them.
Carbonaro said he likes the three aforementioned emoticons because they are what he uses in everyday human interactions.
“I don’t use the tongue [emoticon] at all,” he said. “I think it’s weird. I don’t use it in normal situations so I wouldn’t use it in text. I wink, I smile, I frown. Those are my emotions.”
Emotional icons, known as emoticons, express common emotions such as happy, sad, and angry through small face representations. They create a context for an ambiguous message and clarify disambiguation that frequently occurs within electronic communication.
Despite the range of emotions that emoticons can convey, the Rice study found that women are twice as likely to use emoticons as men.
Senior Anna Kelleher said it is more socially acceptable for females to use emoticons when they text and does not like when men use them. She said she thinks men use emoticons in order to flirt, but they are not effective because expressing emotions is typically a feminine trait.
“Guys feel it’s just kind of a feminine thing to express your emotions in general but then to express them in a cute way with a heart or a smiley face, it’s off-putting,” Kelleher said. “It’s a double-standard, but it’s true.”
Communication professor Barbara Ley attributes women’s higher usage of emoticons to the ways the different genders use texting. Since women use texting more for interpersonal and social purposes and men use it to make plans, she said it makes sense that women would use emoticons more.
“Emoticons make more sense for women to reach out and connect with friends for emotional purposes,” Ley said. “It’s not like men never use them, just more about the tendencies as black and white purposes.”
Ley said texting helps convey tone and nuance, but it has its limitations. She said body cues and tone are not always obvious in text, therefore emoticons are used to compliment texting because they give it a human quality. According to Ley, what texting lacks an emoticon helps make up for.
Junior Dana Williams said when placed in the wrong context, emoticons can turn the conversation from awkward to worse. She believes that in serious situations such as a death, actually seeing the words is better.