Communication: Rise of the Emoji

I remember when I was thirteen and dad showed me AOL instant messenger (AIM).  We had moved away from Wisconsin the previous year and I was feeling pretty isolated.  But then dad swooped in on the wings of a mustache and was like, “Son, let there be chat.”

Immediately I was able to talk to people like Pat and Izzy in Wisconsin.  AOL led to MSN and all sorts of other chat programs.  Everyone at school was using it.  It was the precursor birth of social media and the social internet.

I remember— and this will likely sound quaint to those who have grown up with it— the first time I saw someone use an emoticon.

“:D”

Colon symbol + Capital Letter D.  It makes a smiley face!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Even WordPress turns the emoticons into emojis so they all have to be in fucking quotation marks.

It was such a feeling of concise nardledanger that my life was altered forever.  I was delighted about making smileys.  And after a time they eventually started taking on specific meaning.  So the “:D” smiley became one of sarcasm, not just being overjoyed.

“Have fun at work! :D”

The smiley was me joking at my friends who didn’t want to go to work, or something else marginally sarcastic.  Most emoticons had this happen to them.  The only one that really stayed true to its original was “:P.”

Eventually MSN and AOL introduced emojis.  It pissed me off because now they changed the expression I had come to know and use in my lexicon.  I had assigned emoticons meaning beyond the literal.  You know, how language develops.  But then these companies took the faces and gave them more distinguishable expression.

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On the left here you can see what they did.  Just giving little graphical faces to the emoticons.  Now— much like a fickle pokemon, they have evolved into something I didn’t expect nor liked.

Directly to the left of this sentence (a happy accident) you can see what happened to my “:D” emoticon.  Those three different faces communicate different things.  Less sarcasm, more smug.  For the MSN emoji it seems more like Fry from Futurama finding out how socks work.  When I use the “:D” emoji it has nothing to do with looking like Totoro figuring out that he can make fucking umbrellas.

The rest of them as well.  The language of the emoticon was seized on by larger forces.  And they turned them into a new staple of language: emoji.  Some of them were better, some were far worse.  Winky face “;)” had vaguely flirty, mischievous connotation.  Now depending on the company you have the knowing wink, the creeper wink, and the “I have something in my cheek pouch” wink.

This is not the first nor last time the emojis change.  Each time they change we adapt and use the emojis in a more exacting manner.  We re-adapt the meanings we had applied so that our language could stay the same.

The entire point of this post is that I realized how fascinating it is for language to change as the “words” change.  I almost rarely use emoticons or emojis unless the emoji displays the surgically precise feeling I want to convey.

But now we are inundated in emojis.  I think I read a fact once that if you combined the weight of all the emojis in the world— they weigh more than the rest of the creatures on earth.

People sling emojis into messages and across social media in ways I am far too outside of to understand.  For instance: my coworkers with children when trick-or-treating.  Inevitably there were images of their children getting candy.  And on those posts there was every single candy or chocolate emoji that they could find.

To me it was like, “Well duh.  You get candy on trick-or-treating why did you have to go locate all 14 different candy emojis?”

Well to them I’m sure it was just the same as me back in the day slapping a “;D” on the end of my sentences.  They are just a part of language.  They convey meaning in a more specific way than words might given several sentences.

The whole reason I thought to write this is because the other day I was responding to my friends sarcastic comment and I went in search of the perfect GIF to express my response.  As I was searching I took pause to wonder why I was searching for a GIF when I had the nearly infinite human language to express my response.

The images and pop culture that we now use in place of emojis (in place of emoticons (in place of words)) are far easier and more specific to understand.  We are a massively social world and common experiences are more useful in communication than words themselves now.  Using a GIF from Parks and Recreation are easier to get my point across because someone will see the GIF and remember the context and situation of the TV show and apply it to my current response.

“The rules for assaulting in Warhammer 40k have been fixed.”

Even reading my above caption for that image you immediately understand why I’d use that specific GIF.  You don’t even need to play Warhammer 40k— from the context of the GIF you can tell that it’s fucking great for me and terrible for anyone else and I’m experiencing schadenfreude.

Language is weird.  To this day I wish that certain chat programs wouldn’t change my emoticons into emojis.  Its simply not what I want to express.  But the more I have to communicate digitally the more I realize that this is simply how its going to be.  It’ll probably evolve into a different thing as more interesting technology becomes available.

I can only hope that at some point 3D printers become ubiquitous and I can start sending my friends emojis that automatically print.  I would love to send a text message accompanied by a 3D file and my friends have to sit there and watch their 3D printer slowly create a giant middle finger.

-DTM

 

 

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Who I Want to Be When I Grow Up

I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen Parks and Rec, Daniel. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it. The characters are genuine, the humor is funny without being offensive, and somehow the story is both hilarious and deeply moving. I am not exaggerating when I say that watching this show has changed my life. This show taught me how to love myself and how to love the people around me.

It also gave me a new role model. When I grow up, I want to be just like Leslie Knope.

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Leslie Knope is a wonderful woman who spends her energy trying to make the world a better place for the people around her. She’s kind, she’s supportive, she’s ambitious, and she’s always excited about her next adventure.

I know I’ll never be exactly like Leslie because I don’t have an endless reservoir of bubbliness inside me and I’m definitely not assertive enough to be a leader. But I can be generous and ambitious in my own way.

Recently, I’ve been planning out elaborate parties and making things for the people around me just because. I’ve been crocheting afghans, planning surprise parties, and buying tiny gifts for my friends because I want to see them smile. While I’m still nowhere near Leslie’s level of generosity in the show, I feel like she would be proud of me because instead of focusing on myself, I’m thinking of the people in my life. I’m showing them that I care about them without being ashamed of my love.

I’m also continuing to push myself to try new things every day. I know that I can sometimes get complacent, especially now that I have my degree and a comfortable job. It’s so easy to lose focus sometimes or forget that there are still things to work for. So everyday I remind myself that Leslie never lost focus. Everything she did, she did to reach a goal and that’s how I want to live my life.

As you know, I’m training for a half marathon right now. Lots of people have wished me luck. Others have asked me why I would do this to myself. I’m doing this because I want to be able to say I ran a half marathon. That’s it, that’s the reason I’m working so hard. Sometimes people won’t understand why you’re working for something and Leslie Knope taught me that, despite what they say, you keep going. Don’t give up.

tenorOf course, Leslie does have her faults. Except, instead of being ashamed of her faults she embraces them. Instead of stubbornly ignoring her flaws, she understands that sometimes she needs help and she reaches out to her loved ones for it rather than pretending she’s perfect. Leslie can be controlling, anxious, obsessive, and self-centered, but none of these things make her an unlovable person because she works every day to make sure they don’t define her.

Damn. Talk about #goals, am I right?

I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to be perfect. I rarely challenge myself because I’m afraid of failing and I never talk about my fears with the people around me because that would mean I’m flawed. For a majority of my life, I’ve equated being flawed with being unlovable.

giphy1Watching Parks and Rec helped me realize that wasn’t the case. Seeing Leslie Knope struggle with her own flaws and still succeed helped me realize that I can still be a good person without being perfect 100 percent of the time.

Basically, what I learned from Leslie Knope is that sometimes it’s better to be remembered as a fun, generous person rather than a perfect human being who can do no wrong. I want my friends and family to think of me and smile or be inspired or just feel warm and fuzzy rather than remember how skilled or smart I am.

When I grow up, I want to be Leslie Knope.

-EMS

 

Waiting for the Hook

173I liked the show Stranger Things.

If you’re out of the loop, Stranger Things is a Netflix series about a small town right outside a secret government base. Something happens and people start to go missing and it’s up to the town’s residents to figure out what’s going on and save a little boy named Will.

Anyway, I really loved this show. It’s a wonderful blend of three very common horror narratives: children coming of age and fighting monsters, like in Stephen King’s It or the movie Super 8; high school hallway horror, like in any 80s slasher film; and adults fighting human monsters and government corruption, like Cabin in the Woods. Stranger Things combines all of these plots to create one cohesive, highly addictive story that had me hooked as soon as I started watching it.

Now, earlier this week you brought up the show and said that you HATED it. The first three episodes were so boring you got up to do laundry while you watched. You also hated the characterization, which to be honest was one of the reasons I liked it. Anyway, my response to this was asking how far you got. You said three episodes and I said “oh, it picks up after that. You just have to push through.”

Where in the world did this logic come from? Why in the world do we force ourselves through boredom or painfully bad acting in hopes that it gets better? That’s what I’ve been thinking a lot about since we talked about Stranger Things, Daniel. The conclusion I’ve come to is that it all depends on who told you to.

So looking back at my own life I’ve on multiple occasions pushed my way through something boring because someone I trusted told me it would get better. The best example I have is Parks and Rec, a show which I can say without any sarcasm actually changed my life. However, before you get to the wonderful, positive, hilarious bits of that show you have to sit through the first season, which oh my god. I could get through maybe an episode a day and that was it.

It took me maybe two weeks to get through the first season. I got through the next six seasons in maybe a month, that’s how much it picked up.

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If I had just given up when it got boring I would never have experienced the positivity and beauty of that show. Why did I not give up? Because my friend Meredith told me not to, and I believed her. If anyone else had told me to keep going, I might not have, but I respected Meredith’s opinion.

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Me reading about the Dursleys in the first chapter.

Another example is Harry Potter. Now, I don’t know if you remember this, Daniel, but I didn’t read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone first. I tried, but the first few chapters were SO BORING. I just couldn’t get through it. Then, my wonderful older brother gave me Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. He told me “it’s kinda like a scary story and you like scary stories.” I gave it a try and WOW. I had been missing out!

How do you feel Daniel knowing it was you who got me into Harry Potter? If you hadn’t done that, I literally might not be married right now. Let that sink in.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of instances where I heard that I had to stick with something and it would eventually get good and it never did.

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Wanna know something? These twins,  the most iconic twins in all of movie history, WEREN’T IN THE BOOK. OH MY GOD.

 

The movie version of The Shining for instance. Stanley Kubrick ruined The Shining. He completely destroyed my favorite characters and stripped out all of the amazing characterization in order to prop up Jack Nicholson’s acting skills. I could go on, but I could write an entire spoiler filled post about how much I hate that movie.

The John Carter of Mars series was another. I read the first one. It was okay, but I kept hearing from people “oh, you have to read the rest! They’re amazing!” Actually, no they’re not. They’re surprisingly racist is what they are! I almost couldn’t finish them because I felt SUPER UNCOMFORTABLE.

When I think back to these two instances though, you know what the difference is? No one I trusted told me to give them a try, it was society that insisted these things were good. Everyone loves Kubrick so much so The Shining had to be a good movie! Wrong. Everyone adored John Carter of Mars so the sequels had to be awesome. Uh, no.

The point I’m trying to get to is that sometimes there are things that you have to “suffer through” to get to the good parts, but you shouldn’t use that logic for everything. Listen to the people who know you and follow your own interests rather than those of the masses. It will save you a lot of boredom.

Well, before I end this post I’ll just say, after some consideration, don’t bother trying to finish Stranger Things, Daniel. It tapped into my love of horror, which I know you don’t share so don’t put yourself through it. I will just be alone in my adoration of this show.

-EMS