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Deconstructing Emoticons · 13 December 2014


A writer acquaintance who I am following on Twitter and who I introduced in my blog as the caretaker of #6words told me that I am not supposed to deconstruct emoticons. Which naturally got me to thinking. Why do we deconstruct any writing in the first place?


It has been a long time since I have taken a writing class, but it seems to me that we ought to take writing as it stands. Sure, we need to understand the time period in which it was written. We might even need to understand what state the author was in. But can we really know that the author had some deeper meaning than what he or she wrote? Can we really believe that there is more than what is written on the page?


I have been writing for a long time. I have written books and screenplays and of course, I have blogged. I have not tried to say anything more than what I wrote in any of my writing. Sure, I have tried to express my Christian faith and my writing as a whole relates my values. But I have not tried to weave in some unwritten message into anything I have written. I am just not that clever.


I know that what I write has little if any literary or social value, but still, I wonder if there is somebody out there who wants to deconstruct my writing to see if I am a subversive or have sinister motives for writing. While I may or may not be the typical writer, I do wonder about the merits of deconstructing anybody’s writing.


Let alone emoticons.


Emoticons are those little symbols people put in texts and Facebook posts and Twitter feeds. It used to be that people embedded sideward smiley faces :) or frowny faces :( or winking faces ;) into their prose to show their emotions. Now, even word processors put in real faces when we do the proper keystrokes. (I actually had to get rid of them when I was writing this piece.) Whether the characters or the faces those characters represent show up in people’s prose, they are called emoticons or emoji.


I never used to use emoticons in my own prose. Then again, I was never and am still not much of a texter. Or even much of a Facebook or Twitter user. However, I have been working hard to better use social media to promote my writing. Not that it has helped much, but I do have a few followers. And I have made a couple digital acquaintances. Which is why I have started to use emoticons more.


Since there is no sarcastic font, emoticons are often necessary to show when a person is not being serious. Sure, all caps can show somebody yelling or being angry, but without some context, a person cannot really show sarcasm or levity in short bursts. Which is why I have used emoticons in some of my Twitter posts. (Which are called tweets for some reason, but I already wrote that story.)


Like prose, emoticons ought not be deconstructed. They should be given and received as the whole message. People ought not read subtle or hidden meanings into them. After all, they are just little pictures showing emotions. I should have remembered this when I tried to decipher the meaning of my acquaintance on Twitter. I should have realized that her smiley face about something I had tweeted, meant she liked it. Period. There was no hidden meaning to be implied. She was not just saying she liked my writing and when she actually meant she did not. The emoji should have stood for what it said.


(It was a fun little exchange on Twitter. Much shorter than this piece describes. But it did bring up some interesting thoughts.)


I will never understand deconstructing writing to find out what the author really meant. Especially, when said author is long dead. I should have remembered that when I was deconstructing emoticons.


Then again, when it comes right down to it, maybe most authors do have hidden meanings in their writings. And in their emoticons. I know I do not. But I do wonder what hidden messages we would find if we read stuff backwards. ;)

© 2014 Michael T. Miyoshi

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