Fladun / In the grip of a smiley face

“Once upon a time, people would sit down and write letters, sometimes many pages long,” writes Mum in the City columnist SONYA FLADUN

I LOVE emojis. For a long time, I never liked texting very much, I always thought it rather impersonal.

Sonya-Fladun

Sonya Fladun.

But I’ve come round to it now that I can punctuate messages with smiley faces and, better still, animated characters to quickly convey thanks, send my best wishes or tell people how I’m feeling.

Thanks to smartphones and amazingly creative software, there’s a whole new range of ways to convey emotion in the frenzy of messages many of us send to loved ones, friends and colleagues throughout our busy days.

As I tell my kids, once upon a time people actually relied on words to do this. They would sit down and write letters, sometimes many pages long. They would tell family and friends all about what was happening, and pour out their feelings, worries and desires in long, elegant prose. Alternatively, people would use the phone to ring people, ready for a long conversation with a cup of tea at hand.

Today everything is so much more hurried and instant. Communication channels have proliferated in bewildering ways. We have at least one phone, tablet and laptop for each member of our household.

My kids Skype, text, email and WeeChat and God only knows what else! Often they seem to be communicating in code, apparently known as textspeak, which they and their friends seem be totally au fait with and believe is completely secure from parental decryption. I’ve managed to make some minor decoding breakthroughs as I try to keep a gentle parental watch on my kids’ burgeoning activities and relationships. I hasten to say I’m not spying, just keeping tabs on things.

I’ve learned that IKR means “I know, right!”. IYKWIM means “If you know what I mean?” That, of course, is my problem when it comes to the more complicated messages. Still my personal favourites are PAW, meaning “parents are watching”, and LMBO which is short for “laughing my butt off!”

Emojis have added a whole new dimension. At least I can understand these new modern hieroglyphics better than the text abbreviations. They are a lot of fun.

However, there are new challenges. After all, a winking panda (one of my favourites) can be open to interpretation. There’s already been great drama when the wrong emoji was sent to a friend. I have accidentally sent a “poo face” when I probably shouldn’t. Emojis have probably got to be handled with care in the workplace. As their usage becomes ubiquitous I won’t be surprised if I soon hear a politician complain at a press conference that his or her emoji was taken out of context.

From time to time I do seek to remind my kids about the importance of direct, verbal communication. I do wonder whether verbal communication might suffer from too much time texting and chatting in the electronic world. I am not so worried about my daughter, she could talk the leg off an iron pot. However when I broached this subject with my son the other day, he put on his thinking face and went upstairs to his room. A moment later I got a message on my phone from him. No words, just this:rolling eyes emoji

He is a cheeky bugger, but I think I have a point.

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