Emoticonfessions of a Social Media Person

emoticon crowdI started my online-social-networking life back in the mid-80s before such a term existed. Heck, back then the Internet hadn’t yet made it out of the science labs and universities. Windows v3 wasn’t yet launched and there was no such thing as the world wide web. Back then, we used 1200 baud modems and our regular phone lines and we dialed up to local Bulletin Board Systems (called BBS’s) because local calls were free and long distance calls were expensive.

I was a BBSer. I worked for a small computer company, and the technicians were all glorious geeks who opened up this world to me. I took my 1200 baud modem home to my IBM XT clone with its RGB monitor and I plugged it into the phone jack on my wall.

Back then, we used :- ) and ;- ) and they didn’t automatically turn into  and . Text smileys were all we had, so we got creative with them, and we liked it that way.


In social media today, the graphical emoticons have expanded and number in the many thousands. They are common on instant messaging platforms and other social sites. Some people love them so much, they make their content rain down with emoticons. Others – not so much. They see them as unprofessional, even juvenile.

Here is my confession: I love them. I recently let my freak-flag fly where emoticons are concerned in a blog post on my company’s social platform. I did it a little tongue-in-cheek (that means I was going for levity, if the phrase doesn’t translate globally). In fact, since I am often going for levity, perhaps that is why I feel the need to use them. Making a comment with a  and making the same comment without the  can yield very different results. I believe in using humor in the workplace and humor can be tricky with written word, so these little images help me not to be misunderstood – not to be taken seriously when I don’t intend to be serious.

Following my posting of that blog, a few people commented on use of emoticons. I was all ready to take grief for it, but the response was pretty much positive – people feel they add clarity, even levity.

I’ll confess further: I occasionally use them in business emails. Oh, not emails to customers, not anything official. I wouldn’t mind using them more, but I’m conservative in this regard. I use them to thank someone or say good job or even happy birthday. I have my own little folder of my favorites:

On the Jive platform at work, people see me use this one a lot, as I am the (self-appointed) queen of our social-network:


People closer to me have likely seen some of these:

wow2thank-you-smileyprettypleaseplanefeedbackcongratscheersbirthday2centswinkpleasepick meluvhelp2bow

Some of the ones I love, I don’t use at work much, even if they accurately depict my mood in any given moment:

YAPYAPwaitingwhoopviolintapfoottantrumsumpinstomprolling pinsighnananonofingerwagdeadhorseboltbitenailsbackoutangry rant

You can see how annoying it could be if someone overused them. Where emoticons are concerned, less is more, I think. Use them sparingly if you’re going to use them.

I thought it might be an interesting discussion. Do you use emoticons at work? Do others use them? Is there a negative perception of them when they’re used? Do they have a place in business?

Sound off! Or just share your favorites – a picture is worth a thousand words, right??

One thought on “Emoticonfessions of a Social Media Person

  1. There was a huge debate at work just a few months ago because one middle leader didn’t want them used in any context with work, and others felt it was appropriate. It was a great debate and launched a mass emoticon war that still continues to this day. I will use them amongst our team, when making jokes with peers or the like, or on out IM system, but not leader level and above emails.

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