I may have used a few smilies when I first got here, but I 've since seen the light and I imagine I’ve been on the bandwagon for at least three years. And I have a similar experience with abbreviations.
Smilies and the culture that develops around them drive me nuts. I could not agree more with Otto’s assertion that they’re a sign of laziness. More and more it seems that people assume they’re a mandatory part of writing on a message board, and base their entire interpretation of posts on them. Let’s go back to the example about using the ‘wink’ smily to indicate sarcastic intent.
What is sarcasm? It’s where you write something that’s so over the top that it should be immediately obvious to a reader who actually thinks about what they’re reading. Lately it seems that some people can’t grasp the possibility of a sarcastic post without that smily. What that means, really, is that they just can’t be bothered to read the post carefully and think about whether it makes sense. They need to be told, outright and directly, that it’s sarcastic, or else they won’t get it. But the entire point of sarcasm is that it isn’t outright, it isn’t direct. It’s a literary device that works by subtlety to burrow under the surface of arguments and expose their hidden flaws. Having that smily there totally defeats the purpose.
I use smilies a lot when the tone of the conversation seems, well, conversational. After all, I don’t speak out loud in a monotone…
When I’m posting longer posts, ones that in tone are closer to traditionally written communication, my use of smilies decreases drastically.
Although, logically speaking, I don’t see how they can be anything but a Good Thing. Basically, they’re like punctuation. Would you just arbitrarily decide that you were never going to use exclamation points and ellipses, because they should be implied by your words?
I have to take issue with this. Suppose you’re violently opposed to, umm, carrots. You hate carrots. You see a discussion of carrots on the SDMB. You decide to join that conversation and craftily make your point with a sarcastic post of devestating wit and subtletly. We’ll take it as a given that your post is written with enough subtle verbal clues than any informed reader, reading carefully, will be able to deduce that it’s sarcastic.
Or to approach the topic from another direction entirely, people are complaining that emoticons are becoming the standard on message boards. If so, and if you refuse to use them, and if other people, who (not surprisingly) are adjusting to the new standard, thus fail to understand your meaning, who is it who’s at fault? It’s long been accepted that spoken English and written English are very different things, with different rules, etc. It seems clear to me that message board English is a third category entirely, albeit one which shares much with written English. The person who communicates most clearly and effectively in message board English will be the one has the greatest command of ALL the avaiable tools.