Entry 665: Let a :-) Be Your (—‚

I just don’t understand 21st Century communications.

I don’t get why people LOL at their own remarks. First, they’re never that funny. Second, it’s poor comedic form to laugh at your own joke.

I can’t figure out how abbreviations get invented. I mean, somebody must have been the first to text “BRB” and leave the person they were texting wondering what “BRB” meant. I imagine some poor guy just having hit “SEND” on “Wanna have sex 2-nite?” while the other person was simultaneously texting “BRB.” “But, Julie,” he would say to her when he showed up at her door later that evening, “you told me to bring rubber bands.”

I don’t know why people are completely unable to talk about texting without moving their thumbs. They’ll be saying, “And so I texted Judy yesterday…” and their thumbs will be flying around in mid-air. I literally have never seen someone not do this. I’ve sometimes wondered if they would be able to continue talking if I held their thumbs.

I’m always puzzled when people “LIKE” sad posts. You say “My dog died yesterday” and you get 130 “LIKES.” What kind of asshole friends do you have, anyway?

I definitely don’t understand why people spend 20 minutes texting information back and forth when the same information could be communicated with a 30 second phone call. Is the sound of a human voice that offensive?

And why the hell do people publicly share personal stuff on Facebook? As an example, I give you Cyndi Nail. I have no idea who Cyndi Nail is, but she evidently belongs to the same Shetland Sheepdog Facebook group that I’m in. Recently she shared a link to Ashleigh and Johnathan Chad Fauver’s TheKnot.com wedding website. Of course, I also do not know Ashleigh and Johnathan or why, judging from the photo, Ashleigh is marrying the winner of the Larry the Cable Guy look-alike contest. I do not know why Cyndi Nail feels compelled to share this news with complete strangers with whom she has no connection other than, perhaps, a preference for cute, hyperactive dogs. Cyndi isn’t even a member of the wedding party! (I know this because, of course, I clicked the link.) I am, however, tempted to send the happy couple something from their registry (greedy bastards that they are, they registered at both Target and Walmart), possibly the $19.99 laundry basket, just so they can spend several entertaining minutes trying to figure out who the heck I am.

I’ll never become conversant with the etiquette and use of all the various social media. It makes me long for the good old days when being up to date on communications technology meant typing a smiley face at the end of a sentence.

At least that humble emoticon actually did something. It was punctuation, every bit as much as the parenthesis, dash and colon that built it. It said “I’m kidding.” It communicated a Monty Pythonesque “Wink wink.” And when people started getting creative with it, typing different facial expressions, it made you tilt your head and go, “Oh, yeah, it’s crying.”

Compared to all that, emojis are just lazy decorations, like a teenaged girl putting little hearts over her “i’s.”

And the emoticon had history, damn it. In 1912, Ambrose Bierce proposed “the snigger point,” a new form of punctuation to represent “a smiling mouth.” He drew it as a horizontal parenthesis. “It is to be appended,” he wrote, “…to every jocular or ironical sentence.”  Woodrow Wilson tried to use it once, referring in a document to “the war to end all wars ␣ “but, alas, the snigger point never caught on.

In a 1936 Harvard Lampoon article, Alan Gregg proposed (-) for smile and (–) for a bigger smile–cool, because you don’t even have to look at them sideways.

In 1969, no less a literary figure than Vladimir Nabokov said, in reply to an interviewer’s stupid query, “I often think there should exist a special typographical sign for a smile – some sort of concave mark, a supine round bracket, which I would now like to trace in reply to your question.”

Ouch! Those Russian writers really know how to throw a zinger at you!

The emoticon that ultimately came into use was first proposed way back in 1982 on the Carnegie Mellon University computer science general board as a way for people to communicate jocularity in their emails, which was deemed necessary because it was the only way you could know a computer scientist was joking.

So enjoy your emojis, folks, but let us never forget the emoticon. Because if we were to allow it to fade into oblivion, that would be truly :–(

See you soon.

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