I’m sure you’ve seen, and probably even used a smiley or emoticon at least once in your internet experience. Whether its been an actual picture, or just a series of characters like:-), you’ve seen it!
You may be surprised to find out how and why these “smileys” have evolved in online communication. Well, it should be noted that psychologists have discovered that 90% of human communication is non-verbal (that’s probably not surprising). A lot of communication is perceived through body language, tone, gestures, etc.
On the internet, whether it’s in a forum, blog, email, or instant messenger chat, there’s no mechanism to convey these “non verbal” signals. Hence, smileys! Smileys and emoticons are used to confer emotion no matter what it is, sarcasm, jokes, anger, sadness, bashfulness, playful, etc.
The first noted emoticon ever noted is “:-J” which represents tongue in cheek.
Today, smiley face symbols and emoticons have become extremely popular in digital communication and have evolved from simple character sequences to simple static images and nowadays 3-dimensional animated smileys. You’ll see support for smileys in all modern email providers (example: Hotmail, Yahoo!, Gmail) and all instant messenger chat applications (example: MSN messenger, AOL messenger, yahoo messenger, Skype).
The popular blog engine, WordPress also has built in support to convert character sequences to images (which can be a pain sometimes for bloggers, but this can be easily disabled).
It’s actually cool to learn how something so seemingly meaningless such as smiley faces can actually have deep psychological implications in communication.