No Huggy No Kissy

In my This is the No Huggy No Kissy Box post I was saying that I wasn’t brought up to wear my heart on my sleeve in any way, or to show the appearance of it even to fit into social norms. My extended family thought nothing of of a ‘hello’ or ‘goodnight’ peck but my immediate family didn’t go in for it except (sometimes) at times of extreme sadness, and I found it quite puzzling.

Sometimes I read over my messages in various areas of the internet and think “I was trying to be friendly; in fact I was smiling at the time, but I sound so stilted, even abrupt.”

I tend to resist the urge to gush; for instance if there was a photograph or other picture that we all liked, others would alternate between ‘great shot!’ (too much of a clichรฉ) and “oh, this is gorgeous, I had to rush over here to see who was responsible for this beauty,” (too gushy… though I was flattered and blushing if anyone said it to me. Harrumph).

Caught between these two extremes, I would try to give my comment more content; something worth clicking on a link to read, but because I wasn’t gushing, it would still sound less than enthused… even if I thought the picture was the best thing I had seen all year.

Is it just that a subconscious contrast is made between “oh, how wonderful!” and “the crisp lines and the vibrant colours are very striking, and this deserves a better score in the voting booth”? The first comment sounds warm, the second sounds calculated. There’s a lot of flack just now about people wanting more constructive comments and fewer of the ‘great shot / I just adore this’ type comments, but they don’t stop… and maybe there’s a reason for it. It could be that if the art world (on all levels from 2-year-old painters up) became a place where you only got comments along the lines of “I was drawn in by the careful composition”, it would become a much colder, less vibrant, less welcoming place. And that goes against whatever art’s supposed to be about.

I don’t know, I’m merely speculating.

I was thinking about this yesterday, though not for the first time. Some months ago I went to another art site (OK, it was deviantART), and started an account there, and found that emoticons are in heavy use! Laughing spheres with legs and arms, crying tears, drumming their heels on the floor; big shiny red hearts; little red roses… and spheres hugging each other wherever you go. It’s another way of saying ‘thank you’, even to someone you’ve never spoken to before. You go along and look at a picture, leave whatever sort of comment you like to leave, whether it’s ‘great shot’, ‘absolutely stupendous, darling!!!’ or ‘I was struck by sensitivity of the brushwork exhibited in this piece,’ and what you get back is a huggy emoticon and a rose.

I was going to illustrate with some here, but it seems WordPress doesn’t go in for huggy emoticons or roses. ๐Ÿ˜ฅ See, I’m shivering already.

Being me, I was scrupulously avoiding them and going on with my ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ and the plain smiling emoticon (a nicer one than the WordPress variety, IMHO). โžก WordPress ๐Ÿ™‚ Then I did that ‘reading over my comments and posts’ things and felt completely let down… and the next time someone said something unhappy, I responded with a huggicon.

It was easy! Nobody said “why are you hugging me, you don’t know me!”

I found that when ‘thank you’ or ‘with sympathy’ gets too repetitive or dry, a huggicon is the easy, graceful way out. And I found myself wondering if that’s why they are used in real life as well… those who have got it to a fine art know that a hug can be more graceful and less hard work than words. We don’t all find it so, and we don’t all submit to being hugged, but it made me wonder. Maybe one day I would find it easier to hug someone and remain silent, rather than try to come up with the appropriate words (and sometimes nothing you can say is really appropriate). I don’t really see me loosening up to that extent… but, thanks to deviantART, you never know.

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9 responses

  1. Emoticons are a big help. Until I started blogging and commenting, I had no idea how much of our communication is nonverbal. I have to be very careful- a comment made in the real world with a smile on my face comes across very differenltly in the virtual world, where all anyone sees is black text on a white background.

  2. Many people shy away from emoticons, but everything seems cold and rather harsh when it’s just in text, and neutral comments end up sounding negative.

    I’d still much rather get โ€œI was drawn in by the careful compositionโ€, though.

  3. I find expressing any emotion difficult. My parents were not expressive – I never saw them hug or kiss. Instead they would argue. I still feel a little uncomfortable giving or receiving hugs. I can never find adequate words either. This difficulty is reflected in my online world as well. I’m not one for gushing either. I probably come across as cold or abrupt simply because the tone of voice or facial expressions are missing. Emotes do help, a lot.

  4. I’ve actually started some folks at work using ๐Ÿ™‚ in emails to take the suspicion of ๐Ÿ˜ฆ intent away from words. Such a bunch of dysfunctionals there that a number of people will take the simplest comment as ‘mean, harsh’, and a little happy face seems to deplete an implied sting. Sometimes I feel really ‘stupid’ at my age HAVING to type ๐Ÿ™‚ in an email to smooth any perceived edges, but I just shrug and do it for the sake of harmony. It’s just humorous that it does work.

    I was always a very huggy person growing up and through many adult years, then had a boyfriend who got on a kick where he didn’t want to be hugged and would actually go, “grrrr!” if you tried. He would quote a comment made by a doctor when one of his friends was in the hospital after a bad accident and who for a long time couldn’t bear to be touched: “LOW CALCIUM!” He decided that was the deal — if you have low calcium you couldn’t stand to have someone touch you. He growled this at me so much that over time I quit trying to hug him and my hugging of anyone dropped precipitously. I really missed it. There’s such a positive exchange of caring energy in a hug. And then at the workplace it became suspect to touch anyone — harassment!!! I don’t see that, but I respect that others may feel that way. I look for ‘permission clues’ before I try it on anyone because I’ve been working on building back up my hugging capacity. It really helps in our little household, just that human touch that gives without taking.

    Squeezingly, in a gentle way,
    Shu

  5. Judging the level of emotion behind any comment is, I find, incredibly difficult when the words are typed and not spoken. Perhaps it is the intent of the author of a reaction, to use emoticons to try, in some small way, to illustrate the comment where no voice intonation can be heard.

    I do like the “hug” emoticon because I feel it says so much i.e. I care, I sympathise, I empathise, I feel for you I’m on your side; you’ve got my support…. Coming from a family that wasn’t the least tactile, I found whilst growing up that I missed that human contact, mostly for reassurance. I know I’ve become more demonstrative than my forebears, so I only hope it doesn’t offend. And like Shu, I do look for the “permission clues” first – or at least try to.

    IMHO a little hug goes a long way.

  6. I hate those icons (too smoochy for a curmudgeon like me). On the other hand, much of what I could convey in person is impossible in print. So I don’t mind seeing them. I just mind using them. ๐Ÿ˜›

    Having said that, even curmudgeons need hugs. Or maybe it’s especially curmudgeons who need hugs.

  7. Perhaps because hugs are such a big deal to curmudgeons (and not just about empathizing, communicating or letting off steam) they will have a bigger effect on curmudgeons when they work. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    That’s a good point about the permission clues; I wonder if they should be looked for in typed communications as well? On the art site there’s a sense of equality; the only differences will be in skill level, art experience, site experience and site rank (that is, whether or not you’re one of the site staff members).

    On forum threads, though, I find I’m getting more and more worried about commenting in general… I don’t want to get it wrong and say the wrong thing in the wrong way to the wrong person.

    A squeeze back to Shu and other commenters (curmudgeonly or not). ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. I’ve always liked emoticons…I’m a a smiley person so it lets me express a lot without words.
    I DO dislike things like LOL or ROTFL…sometimes they apply, but most people won’t use them in a normal way…I have colleagues who will write LOL for things that aren’t really funny or use lolspeak in work emails and it’s just odd.
    My family isn’t overly huggy, but sometimes I will hug others when it seems right. It’s when someone who *is* huggy wants me to hug them and I don’t know them or don’t want to that I find it awkward. You can tell so much by someone’s face that can’t be expressed in words. I think emoticons can let you do that too in your writing.
    I do like me a smiley face ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. Oddly enough, I saw someone say exactly the same thing in another thread — that LOL is used too much. I love the ROTFL emoticon on dA, though, that makes me smile. I suppose ‘ROTFL’ and the associated emoticon will affect people differently. Gosh, one could write a thesis about this, or set up a college course!

    I wish a couple of people I know would use smilicons… it would make their emails so much less stark. ๐Ÿ˜•

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