Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My Friends and I Speak in Emojis

Emojis are everywhere. In snaps, texts, and tweets, we add them to color our words with a little more emotion, a little piece of us. This has become apparent to me as my friends and I have debated over our most used emojis. These debates have become jokingly heated, but even so, that we debate what emojis best describe our emotions at all is indicative of how far writing culture has come. Before technology, only people that really wanted to wrote, and they did so using words to convey their emotions; now anyone who has the motor skills to type can press the pizza emoji and have pizza delivered to them. We live in a show and tell culture with the tell part cut out.
Would Socrates like living in today? People use emojis most often to put context back into their words, especially texts, which is something that Socrates could appreciate. Socrates in Phaedrus spends a lot of breath disparaging the “copy of a copy” nature of writing that decontextualizes our true feelings; emojis are feelings packaged in a single click.

How truthful those smiley faces are, however, is irrelevant. They’re only useful for convenience. Group chats are notorious for this. Annoying friends and still saying something is now possible. If one wants to say “whatever” without typing the eight letters required, just use that sassy girl emoji. One of my friends mimics this same emoji to express his airy indifference (to be honest you probably have too). Emojis have begun to condition how we feel. They’ve started to condition how we express ourselves, how we tell stories in the written word. I once used emojis in a text to write out the nursery rhyme “…First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage.” Eventually we’ll all be living in an orally homogenous world, saying “oh yeah, like that emoji.”


The written word can be much more powerful than a physical personification of the same ideas.  How do I know this?

...Because you're reading my blog post.  Due to certain anxieties and fears, I don't often comment in class: And when I do, I find myself hoping, as the prophet Jacob did, that I do not "stumble because of my over anxiety." Unfortunately, still, I find my face flushed and my finesse flustered before I've finished my first sentence.  Yet in this written, digital forum, I can be entertaining- and, occasionally, insightful.  I can comment on another person's blog post without my heart beating as fast as a hummingbird's wings.  I can articulate my thoughts in a manner that accurately portrays them, and when it doesn't, I have the opportunity to revise them before I hit that "publish" button.

Does my inability to speak without preparation mean my thoughts are not my thoughts?  No- ask Charlotte and Emily Bronte, Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women), or Nell Harper Lee (the full-named author of To Kill a Mockingbird).  All of these women published their works under male pseudonyms in an effort to have their work respected and valued, and each succeeded in a way they never could have if their works had been presented as their own: Either orally or verbally.

Surely, a person with the ability to command his pen and pen his commands truly creates better ethos, but both speech and writing are merely mediums of conveying the essence of our souls: like artists, some are better with different mediums.

Your Friends TALK to my friends! How nice!

To add my voice to those of many others, I would like to say that texting is a dark plague upon the frontier of modern communication. This may seem like a bit of an exaggeration, but I find it an appropriate characterization, given my recent experiences. I refer to my recent experiences of playing the middle man between two friends who are navigating the dangerous seas of potential romance.

I'm sure it's an old story. Boy texts girl. Girl texts boy. After a few exchanges, BOTH text poor unsuspecting mutual friend with the inevitable questions, "He said this, what does that mean?" "She's thinking that, what should I do?" and the inevitable, though sometimes implied, "Can you talk to them and see what they're thinking?"

Being in this situation as I type this blog post, I am acutely aware of the problems involved with written communication, while emoticons and emojis do make things much better, as noted by Alysha and Laycee, the nuances of human conversation, especially in a romantic setting, cannot be contained in :), :(, :'(, and (my personal favorite) :-}) (man with moustache.) And so it is that the parties, feeling the effects of such limits, go to the only way they can think of: ask ME!

Angry ranting aside, I think that this is yet another excellent example of why Socrates and Plato disliked writing. Human speech itself is an art form, with meaning far beyond the some parts of the words. The tone of voice, volume, body language, and facial expression, along with a myriad of other factors, convey a message that  the written text simply can not. Nowhere are these shortcomings as painfully apparent as when your friends ask you to solve their romantic problems for them.