Has anyone noticed that adding smilies to comments or posts frequently changes the tone to make it seem less negative?
Keep in mind that when someone says something verbally, much of their expression is nonlingual, and all nonverbal expression is flattened out in media like stackoverflow, which is text only (All tone, body language, inflection, etc are stripped). It's difficult to realize exactly how this affects communication, but it subtly alters the meaning of anything you wouldn't say in a flat monotone while looking at the ground and not moving.
Smilies in text only medium
I personally use them in my comments or posts to add additional emotion or meaning to a statement (often because it looks more dickish than I really meant it), or to draw attention to sarcasm. Things which appear to sound cold or rude might get a smiley to make them seem less so.
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I'd imagine you would interpret it differently without the smiley face. It's this sort of thing I'm talking about.
Recently, there was a SE blog post about mean or rude comments. It was pretty clear that comments with a smiley in them were less likely to be considered derogatory or offensive then those without, and that many of them would seem that way in the absence of the smiley.
Who else does this? Am I alone? Has anyone else noticed it? Should presence of smilies alter your decision about whether to report something as offensive?