The Emotions of Text
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Probably one of the most interesting developments of the 21st Century is how many people communicate via text. I don't mean just text messaging (which Purnima referred to as the return to the telegraph message), I mean things like, well, this text.
Blogs, status updates, notes on Facebook walls... There's a lot of typing going on, and a lot of amateur writers flexing their meta-carpals all over the Internet.
The problem is that we just don't quite get the emotional nuance in text that we do face to face. Part of that is the lack of real-time interaction. If I post something to you and it takes hours for you to get back to me, I might start forming opinions about your thoughts about my message. I can't see if I offended you and quickly correct my meaning -- and if I did, that offense can fester and your reply can be equally offensive, then we get a good old fashioned flame war going on.
People often use smileys and other emoticons to try to add that emotional nuance. I hate emoticons, and I generally refuse to use them. They're the equivalent of Cindi-with-an-I dotting that "i" with a heart. Or like the comedian who tells a joke and then says, "Get it? Get it? It was the rabbi!" I prefer the satisfaction of getting the joke on my own.
I like to think of myself as a skilled enough writer that I can imbue some level of emotional certainty into my writing, but let's be honest -- if I use phrases like "imbue emotional certainty" I'm going to come off as a pompous Ivory Tower asshole more often than not, which is just as bad as coming off as some twittering tween with smileys.
It was interesting to see the emotional content in response to my blog yesterday (The Shorty Awards Scandal -- Manual Spam is still Spam). It was one of my general examinations of how social media is changing, but it got a lot more response than normal. Sure, I used the word "scandal" but I meant it as a tongue and cheek commentary because how can you really have "scandal" with something as unstructured, and honestly unimportant, as a fan-based award for who's the best Twitterer in a range of categories?
If you read the comments, you'll see there are a lot of pretty strong opinions in there. And despite my premise that we should be able to tell the intended mood of the author, I honestly can't say how many of these folks are genuinely pissed. I know I wasn't, but I think @jonacoca thought I was pissed at him for trying to help out @iwearyourshirt (I think he even called me a "hater" on Twitter...)
Maybe I should have used a few emoticons...
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Be sure to see my blog over at Cloudenity. This week's topic:
Identity Isn't Just for Users Anymore