Here’s my bottom line:
I just can’t express the complexity of how I feel about your dead dog with a simple [Crying Emoji]. Or any of the other six Facebook emoji options. Or, the one Instagram heart option. And I’m never using LinkedIn’s purple hand with a heart rising from it.
Because it’s almost never that simple.
You may have gone on to say that on the same day your dog died [Cry Emoji], you finally landed that great new job [Thumbs Up Emoji], which was right after your partner said your mother-in-law would be moving in [Mad Emoji], but that you kinda felt obligated to say okay because she’s recovering from chemo. [Caring Emoji]
I’ve been struggling with this for some time. We now live in a shorthand world. Someone shares what’s happening in their life and we—not wanting to slow our roll but wanting to acknowledge them in some way—click a quick emoji onto their pain or success.
But life is messy. So where are the messy emojis?
Where are the emojis that say, “I’m truly sorry your basement flooded but seeing your hamsters floating by on the laundry basket was kinda funny, even if you can’t focus on that while looking at your wallet-draining plumber’s bill.”
Or the emoji for, “I’m glad you’re happy to be back with Brad, but we all know that in a few short weeks we’ll be raising a glass to you for kicking him out…again.”
I’m often confused as to how to respond to someone’s sad story. If I use a [Heart Emoji], will they think I love their plight? If I use a [Care Emoji], will they think I’m being melodramatic?
Then there are the times when a friend makes an attempt at humor and totally misses the mark. Do I click a supportive [Laugh Emoji] and move on? Will someone see it and think, “That’s what Honey now deems to be humor? I expected more. [Shame Emoji]”
What if someone already wished Elaine a happy birthday with a [Balloon Emoji]? If I also say, “Happy birthday [Balloon Emoji],” I worry that I’ll look unoriginal and lazy. Which, of course I am if I’m using an emoji. That is, unless Elaine just got a boob job and I post nothing but [Two Balloon Emojis]. Now that’s thoughtful post.
Because again, we don’t want to get too involved. So we pick the closest emoji and move on.
Or we grab some combo of previously agreed upon initials like, BUMP (Bring Up My Post) that really say, “Here’s what I’m thinking, but I don’t deem you worth the time to actually spell it out.”
And, when I’m on the receiving end, I don’t always know what someone’s shorthand pile of letters mean. So, I waste my time deciphering their response that only took them two seconds to bang out so they can move on to their next friend who’s posting about pinkeye and a new poodle.
Now I’m left killing ten minutes figuring out that AFK meant, Away From Keyboard. Really? Are you? Then what did you type AFK on?
I’ve learned that BOLO is “Be On The Lookout.” BEG means you have a Big Evil Grin (Note: If you’re a friend of mine, I just assume you have a BEG). NOYB is None Of Your Business, which I don’t really appreciate. I’m not nosy. If I ask, it’s because I care. You’re welcome. I learned from my nephew that POS means Parents Over Shoulder. And that SMH is short for my constant state of being, Shaking My Head. Please know that any time I click an emoji I’m also SMH. Read into that what you will.
But we don’t all come to the same conclusions on the meanings and those handfuls of letters, and that can get us into a jam.
Even LOL can be misconstrued. Case in point, the friend of a friend’s mother. She’s a woman of a certain age, and all her life, LOL had meant Lots Of Love. Most people now use it as shorthand for Laughing Out Loud. So, here’s this woman typing LOL any time her friends speak of an aunt that just passed, a dog that fell into a well, or a a diagnoses of prostate cancer. While prostate cancer is highly survivable, do you really want to be LOL’ing?
“Sorry to hear about Grandpa Joe’s knee replacement surgery. But they can do wonders with prosthetics these days. LOL!”
“Really? Well FUOL!” (F*ck You Out Loud)
Have we all forgotten how to use our words? Or are we just so busy that a yellow circle with a winky eye is good enough? New house? [Wink Emoji] Survived a car wreck? [Wink Emoji] Met your long-lost brother after thinking you were an only child? [Two Wink Emojis + SMH]
I myself am totally guilty of the “Look at me being a good friend” by giving you a shorthanded response.
But, I won’t just [Care Emoji] something heavy. Particularly if it’s about someone passing. I always try to take a moment and say something. Not a platitude, but something about the person. Like:
“I’m [Brain Emoji] of you in your [Clock Emoji] of [Tear Emoji]. Please know I’ll always remember that [Clock Emoji] at the [Beach Emoji] when Martha made me [Laugh Emoji] so hard that [Milk Emoji] came out my [Nose Emoji]. SMH. [Three Heart Emojis]”
I leave you with this. I was talking to Mr. Parker about all things emoji and LOL, and he mentioned the LOLcats. What are LOLcats, you ask? It simply stands for LOL Cat. (And no, not Lots Of Love.) Do a search on LOLcat, and the memes look like this:
Cheers and stay careful-ish,
P.S. Please emoji me your response to this post. [Heart Emoji] [Praying Hands Emoji]
Lately I’m learning a lot about myself.
More specifically, I’m learning how I look to the marketing algorithms in social media. And it’s far from flattering.
I’d already been thinking about all the ads I get served repeatedly. What do they say about me? About my age, weight, gender? About my socio-economic status and my phobias?
Let’s imagine that I didn’t have a big ego. (It’s hard, I know.) Instead of writing this blog post, I’d likely be booking a therapy session.
The first ad that I noticed I was seeing with too much frequency is for FreeBird boots and shoes. This one didn’t trouble me. I’d found the boots years ago. And while I’ve never bought a pair, I did like their unusual style. And every time they have a sale, I consider breaking down and making a purchase. Score a point for the algorithms.
The next two ads are much more concerning.
The first is for Wall Pilates. What does Wall Pilates say about me? A) Social Media thinks I’m out of shape. B) It doesn’t think I can afford to pay for a bougie Pilates class in a fancy studio. Are either of those things correct? Let’s move on.
The other ads I kept seeing are for [insert drum roll here] stool softeners! And not just the products. Did you know there’s actually a category for stool softener coaching? Me neither.
What is stool softener coaching? I got served a video with a nice lady very matter-of-factly sharing instructions on the best body position to “make things happen.”
But there’s more. Without getting too graphic, she shared choice tips like, making a “Moo” sound while pushing can help. No shit. (Yeah, I went there.) Clearly the internet thinks I’m all backed up. Or at least I’m at the age where I might be hangin’ with Jamie Lee Curtis talking about “yogurt.” Again, let’s move on.
About a week ago, I was visiting with my niece, a great young woman in her mid-20s. She’d said something that made me think about this topic.
Me: “What ads do you get served on social?”
Her: (Thinking) “Plushees, glitter goo, bird-related items [she’s a big fan of ornithology], and underwear.”
Me: “Gee, I get served ads for underwear.” (Pretty sure I didn’t actually use the word, “Gee.”)
But while she was getting served ads for cute, little camisoles with matching panties that display fun and sexy designs, I was getting ads for bras in battleship gray that helped in the fight to keep your back meat from bulging out your armholes.
Trying to console me, my niece confided that her undies are rather uncomfortable. All I could say was, “So is my self-image.”
This morning, I asked my husband, the famed Mr. Parker, what ads he gets served on social media. He thought and said, clothes, hats, and boats. That all made sense. He’s a big shopper, loves his hats and has sailed boats across oceans. Three more points for the algorithms.
Wait. He remembered that The Platform Formerly Known As Twitter is sending him ads for A) improving his dog’s behavior, and B) women’s clothing.
For the record, we don’t have a dog. And in over 25 years together, I’ve seen him try on my shoes exactly once. (Alcohol was involved.) Algorithm fail. Unless there’s something I don’t know. Where’s that therapist?
But back to me. (Remember: big ego) The online algorithms clearly see me as a woman of a certain age who’s out of shape, tight for cash, and can’t poop or control her boob-related back meat.
It’s a grim day to be me. But only if I buy into an algorithm-driven view of how best to market to Honey Parker. I do not.
For the record, I am indeed a certain age. What I’m not is a certain expectation of that age. I could always be in better shape but, for the amount of fun I have, I’m doing just fine and all my bills are paid. Lastly, I used the ladies’ room for its intended purpose (today), and my rack and back meat are under control.
Note: I still haven’t bought those boots and now I won’t. (Hello, polarity response.)
Your turn. What ads are the algorithms sending you? Are they getting it right?
Cheers and stay careful-ish,
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.