Poe’s Law And Why Internet Smileys Have Gained Prominence Over The Years

Have you ever noticed how a discussion initiated by a small comment on religion or politics on the internet snowballs into a weird frenzy of people’s sentiment being hurt? And it is only later that someone notices that the first comment was meant in jest.

This is why internet smileys and winking emoticons have become so essential in today’s conversations over the online platform. That said, an internet law, called Poe’s Law states that its simply impossible to see the intent i.e. parody or seriousness of a fundamentalist comment in the absence of winking smiley or other emoticons that display humor blatantly.

The Law was formulated by Nathan Poe in 2005 during a time when he was engaged in a debate on evolution on christianforums.com; then referring to creationism, the law has since expanded to include fundamentalism.

The examples of Poe’s Laws can be abundantly seen in forums on religion or lifestyle choices, especially those that deal with BDSM. There is an inverse inference to Poe’s Law too. Those with non-fundamentalist attitudes to a subject more often than not, mistake a sincere fundamentalist belief, statement or comment as a parody. In fact, many a times, when such comments do surface on threads, users immediately invoke Poe’s Law lest their intensions are misunderstood.

Also, Poe’s Law is one of the many reasons why internet smileys started being used more frequently in chatrooms. Otherwise, until then, smileys were seen as ‘that’ unwanted trend on the internet which was never going to get any traction. As different mobile OS started bringing out their batches of emoji, the aspect of understanding context behind statements got that much easier.

Take for instance a Facebook promoted post for best karaoke machines, how many people would click through and read the post? But add a smiley right behind the same post heading and at least three out of ten users would click through to the post. That is Poe’s Law in action.

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