I have great respect for David Gelernter who is the source in this article about changes in our language due to new technology.
I strongly disagree on this issue. Gelernter has objected to smiley faces and related icons. His argument is that they are not really part of language since they don't map to spoken words.
What has developed in many parts of the country and certainly in the language used on both coasts of the United States is the wild and rampant use of irony. In most of the United States and in most suburbs irony doesn’t exist. Ordinary statements are generally direct and made at face value.
Irony on the other hand is a direct statement that is intended to convey the opposite meaning. The conveyance depends either on the obvious contrast to reality or on some vocal inflection. If I make a statement to a friend verbally, ‘I guess I am afraid to fly’ as a response to why I don't go from San Francisco to a party in New York that evening, the context or my voice will say that my response is ironic.
In writing it is much harder to convey irony. It is important that we find ways to convey irony because we use it frequently in daily life.
I suggest that the icons or emoticons are the beginning of a way to indicate that a word, phrase or sentence is ironic.
Bring it on. We need to be able to indicate when a written statement is ironic. It will give us greater flexibility in writing.