Week 1: Ambiguity in Cyber-Language

I often communicate through the internet or texting, though not nearly at a level I used to. Unfortunately, these mediums cause a level of ambiguity with the lack of body language, facial language, and tone. Though this was confirmed in the second chapter of David Crystal’s Internet Linguistics, I already had realized this and have had to find ways to cope with the problem. The most obvious technique is emoticons, which I am quite liberal with. I probably use more emoticons than actual facial expressions, as they have to also make up for the loss of body language and tone. There are the obvious emoticons, such as a smile 🙂 and a frown 😦 . If I’m really sad, the frown is replaced with a crying face 😥 , or if I’m annoyed, I might use DX. If I’m really happy, a big smile is used 😀 . If I want to show that I’m joking, I use a silly face like :-p , or if I’m having fun, I might use XD .  If I’m shocked I’ll used O.O or if I’m raising an eyebrow I’ll use o.O . A lot of joy is ^_^ and if I’m flattered ^^; . If I want to show sympathy or sadness with less effect, I use this face :-\ , which I can interpret but find it hard to describe. Some of the faces become even harder to describe, or even just to say what emotion they represent, because I use them unconsciously, examples of such being >.< , x.x , and ><; . Those  are but a handful, which some getting as complex as (//.^) .

Clearly I have a variety of of emoticons to choose from, but the big problem is that not everyone  interprets them the same way, nor do they have a similar set of emoticons. There are other ways go signify emotions, such as “lol” or “haha” not necessarily to indicate laughing, simply to diffuse a situation and keep it lighthearted, almost like a nervous laugh, even when the person is not laughing. I also might write “imho”, or “in my humble opinion”, indicating that I do not mean to start a fight. Of course, in the end, there are quite a few factors that interpretation depends on, and so misunderstandings can always become a problem. Perhaps in the future, a more universalized mode of communicating will exist in the cyberspace to help avoid these communication problems. Whether it will be technology or simply human adaptation to the medium remains unknown. I hope some solution does come, though, because these problems are more than just inconvient, they can completely affect human relationships.

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