Have you ever wondered how many of the men who use a smile emoticon at the end of an electronic message were actually smiling when they typed it? If your guess falls somewhere below three percent, join the club.
There are a numerous things I find profoundly annoying on the social web. But the worst of the very worst of them, I would suggest, is men trying to look cute. Not inadvertently just being cute. I’m talking about men who deliberately try to look cute, in a bid to manipulate or self-serve. Before anyone accuses me of sexism, I know that women try to look cute on the Internet too, and I’m not saying I find that particularly attractive. Indeed, women who sing in a deliberately cute, babyish, contrived voice on Soundcloud make me want to cut the plug off my speakers. But there’s something about men trying to be cute that’s just… worse.
Sometimes men try to achieve an elevated state of cuteness through their choice of words, and/or by grandstanding a cute opinion. Like:
“Hey, I think the reality show dude who all the hot girls like is such a sweet guy.”
Does our grandstanding ‘nice guy’ really believe that? No. He hates the bastard’s guts. He just wants to express a cute opinion, which will endear him to the ‘hot girls’.
But the most prevalent and basic way men try to look cute on the Internet, is through the use of emoticons or emojis. Like this…
;) or ;-)
Want to vomit? I do. Okay, so a smile with a wink, sent to someone you don’t know, is probably more impolitely familiar than cute, but it’s the intent that counts. Particularly when men use this kind of symbolism with women, but not with other men, I can’t help thinking they’re the kind of blokes who rely heavily on contrived body language to grasp at female attention in real life. Whether that means they’re space invaders who touch women’s arms at bus stops and lean into their faces in bars, or whether they’re just the type who think good eye contact means relentlessly staring at girls on crowded trains, I don’t know. But that’s the type of dude I imagine when I see calculated use of the “;)” emoticon in an online message from a random male to a random female.
The above symbol, along with the straight smile “:)”, is also often used as a sort of mood-lifting reassurance at the end of messages that are… well, massively effing selfish. Like…
“Hey, thanks for following back. If you could like my Facebook page and subscribe to my YouTube channel you really would become a valued friend ;)”
This is an attempt to sugar-coat unmitigated self-aggrandisation in the hope it’ll be seen as the forging of some kind of mutually-beneficial bond. It’s just some crass taker trying to drive up his online status, but he wants to avoid looking like an asshole in the process. These highly manipulative men often accompany their blatant self-promotion with cute language too…
“Why not click our little linky and check out more! ;)”
Okay, so a) it’s “my little linky”, not “our little linky”, Mr We-Man. And b) calling your bit.ly URL a “linky” is not going to make me any more likely to visit your useless, aggressive cyber-hell of spyware ads. Considerably less so, in fact.
Then there’s this…
Translation: please feel sorry for me. I didn’t get my own way, and I want your sympathy. It may even imply that the actual recipient of the message is responsible for the sorrow. Unless it’s used to sympathise with someone else’s issues (and if it is, it’s an insultingly lazy way to do so), the sad face is almost invariably the mark of a needy personality who’s comfortable trying to offload the brunt of his failure onto others. Is cuteness the intention? Well, if you imagine the guy trying to play the sad puppy, his use of the “:(” would very much be an attempt at cute appeal.
What often goes unrecognised is that there are emotional pressures built into these simple emoticons. Especially in one to one communication, the user of an emoticon is trying to push the recipient towards an emotional connection. Trying to engineer a reactive emotion. Trust, sympathy, whatever. You could say that it doesn’t go as deep as that. But some guys clearly are using emoticons calculatedly, to exert emotional pressure, because they drop the emoticons too indiscriminately to correspond with their actual state of mind.
A man may be spamming women on a dating site, for example, using the same message, with the same emoticons. But in reality, a person doesn’t feel the same emotions from day to day, or when interacting with different people, so at least some of the emotions conveyed are fake. There are men on Twitter spamming glamour girls with emoji-rich tweets. Regardless of recipient, mood or occasion, every girl gets the same emojis. The guy has literally sat down and thought to himself:
“Now, how do I press a woman’s buttons? How do I make her think I’m cute?”
THE SHY/BASHFUL FACE
Any calculated conveyance of emotion can bring me close to pulverising a desktop computer with a piano stool, but when I see that little bashful/shy face tailing off some bloke’s appearance-based ‘compliment’ to a ‘hot girl’, I wonder whether civilisation was perhaps a little hasty in scrapping the death penalty. Dude: you’re not bashful, or shy! You reel off this scripted shit to triple digits of women per week!
Again, we see the emoticon or emoji being used in a bid to contradict reality. An online predator billing himself as shy. He wants her to think:
“Awww, how cute. He’s all bashful, and yet he still came and told me he thinks I’m hot!”
What she actually thinks, of course, is:
“Lying, manipulative creep. Probably an absolute injunction case.”
Part of the problem with these emoticons or emojis is that they can never be taken as a spontaneous reaction, the way body language can in real life. Even if the guy is using the emoji on an individual basis rather than as part of a mass-mailing regime, he still has to calculatedly choose it from a selection. That doesn’t have anything like the same truth as a real smile, or a real tear.
FLOWERS AND HEARTS
If broad emoticon use can almost prompt me to attack my computer with a chair, flower and heart emojis can ACTUALLY drive me forth into the garden, to set fire to my broadband router, then hit it repeatedly with a cricket bat until it’s literally powder.
If you’re sending flower/heart emojis to your girlfriend or wife, then yeah, pretty cute. If you’re sending them to 150 strippers you found on a free nudie webcam site, then NO! Not cute.
Flowers are worse than hearts. The sentiment behind flowers is:
“Look, I’m romantic. I’m plying you with roses! And they may not be real, but it’s the thought that counts.”
But in reality there’s no more thought involved in tweeting a flower emoji than an eyeroll or a dancing banana. You don’t have to pay, you don’t have to make the effort. There’s something about blokes wanting to look considerate whilst not actually doing anything, that sums up the essence of this post.
KITTEN, PUPPY AND OTHER CUTE ANIMAL PICTURES
If you’ve never seen a man who ONLY messages female adult providers, and occasionally replies to their tweets with a picture of a kitten playing with a ball of wool or similar, you’ve had a very lucky escape. This mentality is more prevalent than you might think, and frankly, the men’s cynical, scheming behaviour is disturbing. Do they post this stuff anywhere else on the Internet? Nope. They ONLY send it to naked or half naked women, because they think it’s going to press a button. If you translate this into real life, you basically end up with a dude outside a strip club, dangling a puppy out of his car window at the end of the night shift. One does NOT think:
“Aww, how cute! What a nice guy – he loves animals”.
One immediately alerts the police. It’s bait. He’s trying to bait women he sees in a sexual light, with cuteness.
The one consolation with the spectre of men playing cute on the social web, is that it virtually never works. But how many more broadband routers am I going to have to powder before nice guy™ finally accepts that fact?