Use Emoticons or Suffer the Consequences

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Late yesterday, Google trotted out a big ol' batch of emoticons for Gmail users. PC World's Ian Paul has that story, but it got me thinking: how much pain and suffering could have been avoided if Gmail had done this sooner?

Hear me out. I know plenty of people despise emoticons, and some flat-out refuse to use them. But, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I submit to you that emoticons are not only useful, they're often vital.

Consider: How many times have you been sucked into an e-mail or message-board argument over some misinterpreted comment? It happens, and happens often, because written words don't always convey the intent of the writer.

Consequently, an otherwise genial and spirited online discussion can quickly turn ugly, or an e-mail intended as a joke can genuinely hurt someone's feelings. Like when I told Digital Focus blogger Dave Johnson that some band he recommended made my ears bleed, he got all bent out of shape. True, he's a big baby, but I'd neglected to cap my comments with that familiar wink-smile emoticon so he'd know I was joking.

Obviously this is a different kind of "hassle" than I normally address, but the Gmail announcement reminded me how valuable those little emoticons can be. And, hey, if you're not one for smileys, there's always the dancing lobster. Nothing says "I'm kidding" like a dancing lobster.

Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts (and see tiny representations of your emotions). Comment down below.

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