The man who invented the emoticon, Scott "fuddy duddy" Fahlman, does not like what you kids have done to his sideways smiley face with all of the hip emoji and sticker trends of the social media, thank you very much. "Sometimes I feel like Dr. Frankenstein," he told The Wall Street Journal's Evelyn M. Rusli. "My creature started as benign but it's gone places I don't approve of." Those "places" are the beloved emoji — adorable poop smiley face included — as well as the latest in picture messaging, also known as stickers (pictured at right).
To Fahlman's cranky credit, his :) has evolved quite a bit from its humble past, even more so than The Atlantic Wire's Jen Doll chronicled on the typed face's 30th birthday. Indeed, the latest in smartphone pictographs are most definitely these stickers — or "souped-up versions of emoji," in the words of emoji aficionado Jenna Wortham of The New York Times. "Compared with emoji, stickers are elaborate, artsy creations," she explains. They take the small playful icons and blow them up into detailed designs, far more intricate than those twerpy little emoji ever could.
So, yes, things have changed from the colon-parentheses days. But the principle remains the same: Sometimes people want to express things and words just won't cat it, as Fahlman admits in a post about the origins of the face. "After all, when using text-based online communication, we lack the body language or tone-of-voice cues that convey this information when we talk in person or on the phone." For that problem, Fahlman created the smiley and sad faces. But it just wasn't enough, and now we have so many other wonderful ways to express the way we feel. Fahlman should appreciate that and lighten up.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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