I love emoticons – by which I mean, :) and 😉 in their raw text forms – and they make tons of sense for instant messages (including text messages) where you want to impart some specific emotional tone to a message.  But in the slower written contexts (like email or forum posts or what have you) and sometimes even in those fast contexts, I have two issues with them.

The first is ambiguity.  I don’t always feel like the emoticon I used will be interpreted properly.  It’s way different than a smile in person, for example, because a face conveys 1000x the information of the limited available text-smileys do.  For that reason, it can be frustrating to try to find (a) the right emoticon for the emotion you want to convey, and (b) the best way to wrap text around the emoticon in the case where you can’t get an exact match.

Which brings me to the second issue I have: fidelity.  It just feels like when I spend a lot of time selecting and “wrapping” an emoticon, it’s gone from “show my emotion as well as my thoughts” to “sculpt an exact emotional tone in my reader” — which just sort of feels insincere.  Maybe it’s just in my overreaction to the ambiguity part that I project my feelings about this onto other people’s emoticons, but I feel like (a) I overuse them, and (b) I too often worry that I’m being disingenuous with my 😛 or whatever.

I have never really gotten into video chat systems, like Skype, but maybe that’s the solution?  Or just video phoning, I guess.