Evaluating Emoticons: Sometimes They Deserve Respect



A song related to not using the word “love” too much: http://soundcloud.com/starshipjenerprise/love-is-a-big-word-second


Recently I offended someone by mistake. I made a comment that was far too ambiguous. In my mind, it was a compliment. In their mind, it was an insult.

I used to use emoticons far too often. Recently, I was trying to give them up all together, along with exclamation points and the word “love” when referring to someone’s song or blog post.

These are the strange games I play with the world to try and improve my writing.

But when the person sent a message asking why I would insult them, they also mentioned that they like emoticons. It is a way for them to know what is going on.

In the world we live in, we are interacting with people in many cultures. If I tell one friend that I liked their song so much it made me want to puke all over it, they would know what I meant. Someone else living in a different country with a different language may think that I’m being a jerk because they don’t know my particular system of meaning.

So, now I respect emoticons. I realize that in certain situations, especially when interacting with a global audience that I have never personally met, it is actually fine to over-use them a bit. To put a smiley face in each comment, just in case.

Of course, if I am interacting with a writing group online and each member speaks my language and grew up in the same social type of setting as I did, then things are a little bit different. In those cases, my subtleties of speech will be more likely to be recognized. Plus, they may judge me harshly for using an emoticon even once.

It all depends on the crowd, the audience, the reader.

We are never writing in a vacuum!

Have you ever accidentally offended someone without meaning to?

Do you use emoticons, or hate them?

If you hate emoticons, do you think you survive wonderfully without them? Any tips for the rest of us?

Hope you are all well!

How Not to Leave A Comment

There is one comment I feel bad about leaving. I haven’t thought about it in some time. Now I realize that tucked into the guilt of that experience is a lesson.

The comment I left was on a post about a personal sort of declaration. It was fun to read and quite inspiring. Subjectively, I felt that if it was my declaration, I would have added one more thing, so I of course left a comment about it.

I failed to mention If it was me writing this for myself, I would add.. and instead, started the comment with I would add… and really, that gave a whole different impression.

I saw a few potential responses that the person made before they deleted them and the comment. It was clear that what I had done was unintentionally sound like exactly the kind of person I don’t want to be.

So why did it happen?

Short answer: I wasn’t thinking.

Longer answer: I wasn’t taking the time to empathize and imagine myself reading those words from the point of view of the blogger.

Some posts invite input or advice; others do not. It is too easy to just dribble out my first thoughts; it was bound to lead to trouble at some point.

There are many benefits to thinking through a comment. Some of them include:

  • You might make that blogger’s day.
  • You might help another reader see something cool that they wouldn’t have otherwise noticed.
  • You might entice people to find your blog to guzzle up more of your unique knowledge or sparkling wit.
  • You might learn something because you are taking the time to think, rather than just verbal-diarrheaing on that person’s comment space.

Had I stopped to actually think about where that blogger was mentally when writing the post, I would have probably realized that my little subjective thought wasn’t useful to anyone but me. Sometimes, it is best to keep things to ourselves.

Other times, it is best to share them. You might have something useful to add, or the blogger is asking for your reflections and reactions. In that case, here are some tips that can make your comment useful, or at least, un-hurtful, in my humble beginner’s opinion:

  • Mention something from the post that you enjoyed so that the blogger ends up knowing what they did right; especially if they are a writer.
  • Answer whatever questions or prompts they left you with.
  • Take about 60 seconds to actually reflect on the post if it was a potent one for you. Let your body feel how it impacted you. Write sincerely.
  • Perhaps read the comment when you are done and see if it makes sense.

I’m not in any way saying that every comment should be some work of literary genius, although that would be nice. If you are like me, the feeling that you perhaps caused a negative reaction in someone is a bit unpleasant bordering on painful. You didn’t want to do that. You just wanted to help.

I’m as guilty as the next person of scrolling through the blogs I follow, reading the posts that catch my attention and writing out a quick comment to tell the person that I liked it. But maybe, at least sometimes, I can do more than that. That is my intention.

What about you, how do you feel about the comments you give and receive? I feel as if my blog has attracted people who are masters at leaving comments, and I always love what you guys have to say.

Have you ever left a comment you regretted, like me? Or is it one of those Jen-thinks-too-much kind of situations?

Blogging As A Mindfulness Practice: Why I Left You A Comment


Everything you do can be used to help you wake up to the present moment. Why not make blogging into a mindfulness exercise?


This blogging world is pretty new to me. It’s so new that I don’t even know if it’s obvious that it’s new to me or not. I’m still learning everything from how to keep track of posts I like to finding a blog a second time.

When I first started making posts and actually putting effort in, I got a handful of followers. Some of them, who are probably reading this, were great people who actually read the post, actually liked it, maybe commented, and in either case, kept coming back for more.

Other new followers had blogs which I instantly checked out; I found something rather peculiar. A tiny handful of them had somewhat interesting posts, sure, but they also had loads, and I mean loads, of comments which were unanimously: “thank you for following my blog!”

Oh, that’s what this is, I thought. People aren’t following me because I’m an as-of-yet-undiscovered-genius; they are following me so that I follow them. Then it hit me, aha! I have had this feeling before!

I was sitting on the dirt next to a tree on the sidewalk in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. It was night time, so the only lighting was a juicy mix of streetlights and store lights, maybe some Christmas decorative lights as well, even though it was the later part of sweet early June.

I was selling necklaces that I had made; living out of a van with my guitar-playing gypsy boyfriend and a new puppy. A girl came up to me that evening and spent a lot of time asking me about each necklace; where I was when I made it, where I got the beads, how they would affect someone’s energy, and so on. She just wanted to know it all, and I was incredibly touched that a stranger was so kind and curious; and yet there was something strange. She was asking question after question, but wasn’t really engaging with the answers. I was just happy to be talking to someone.

After about a half hour of this flowery girl talk, she told me that she had come to tell me that there was one true savior and that he wanted me to be saved. My heart broke. It broke in half and fell to the bricks, oozing down into the crevices with leftover cigarette ash and dog pee. It made me hate her and anyone like her. I would not have minded had she walked up to me with a bible, stating her point, even if she wanted to yell at me or make fun of me. But she took the trouble to engage me in conversation, to find what mattered to me, and only then tell me her true purpose for starting the conversation.

That was the feeling I got when I looked at a person that had just started following me and realized that they had made a day of following any blog that had made a new post. Except the girl at least had looked me in the eye.

Now, it’s really not such a big deal. I may even be imagining that there is anything wrong with that approach to blogging; maybe it is just a common practice and I am in the dark.

My concern that since habits start to form around the ways we relate, the more time we spend on social network sites, the more that these patterns become part of the fabric of our being. We start getting careless and mindless in one arena, and slowly that mentality spreads like a stain on the rest of our lives. I believe that we can use the act of blogging, and of doing anything on the computer, to become more aware of the present moment.

My suggestion is that we all spend a teensy bit more time being aware of the things we do and the way we relate to people on our social media network. The quality of the things we write; the effort that goes into them and how that effort ends up impacting us when we leave the screen. There are so many things we can pay attention to in order to enhance the other parts of our lives. For instance, the more honest and clear I can be with a comment, the more it helps me to express certain feelings in my novel. Here is a list of a few things that you can pay attention to as you blog:

  • Your posture as you read, write, and work.
  • How you eat your food, if you eat by the computer. How you chew, swallow, and digest.
  • How it feels when your eyes move from the screen to the surrounding areas of your home.
  • How  it feels in your body when you stop to pet your dog or cat or pay attention to other people in the room.
  • How your stomach feels right in this moment.
  • How your feet feel on the surface or air that they are touching.
  • How it feels in your belly or chest when you think about a sentence that you want to type; how it feels to type it.
  • How it feels in your body when you listen to the noises happening around you.
  • What the air smells like.
  • How high above you the ceiling is; or the sky.
  • The feeling of your head on your shoulders.
  • How tense your shoulders are.
  • How tense your upper arms are.
  • How tense your forearms are.
  • How tense your hands are.
  • How tense your pointer finger is.
  • And so on.

There are literally endless aspects of this moment that you can pay attention to. So why not try it? Why not try out how it feels to follow other blogs mindlessly, and how it feels to read a random post, read what it says, and comment on how it affected you even if it is a post you never would have read otherwise?

Since trying to leave more meaningful comments and make more meaningful relationships with my blogging world, I have felt better in many writing-related ways. I have gotten over a huge blockage I had in regards to working on my book, and I feel more able to write my silly articles without bitterness for my job because I can take little breaks and leave a meaningful comment or two. It is my little exercise of verbalizing how I feel from a present state of mind.

The internet is a fabulous tool, a wonderful way of getting your voice into living rooms, coffee shops, parks, and minds all over the world. Pay attention to how you relate to it; and maybe you will learn more about how you relate with the rest of your daily scenery and relationships.

So let’s try to add a dose of awareness to the cocktail of all the things we are doing. Let’s be aware of our intention, our attention, and our inattention.

Sometimes it is tempting for me to read a post and love it, and simply hit “like.” But when I do that, the person doesn’t get to know how their words really affected me, sitting here in my hot little city with my feet on a dog and a glass of iced wine at my side. So I try to be honest and clear. It helps me in the rest of my life; and I think that those that don’t take advantage of such opportunities are missing out. That is why I left you a comment.