Smiley's people (essay)

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For the John le Carré novel, see Smiley's People.

"Smiley's people" is an essay by Neal Stephenson that appeared in The New Republic on September 13, 1993, on the subject of emoticons or "smileys". The title of the article is an allusion to the John le Carré novel, Smiley's People. The article contends that the popular use of emoticons lowers the quality of the written word in the context of online communication. While he has since recanted this view, there remain many others who agree with his original assessment citing the general lack of written sophistication in modern public online communication (a theme Stephenson revisited in his 2008 novel Anathem).

When I was younger I wrote an opinion piece for The New Republic in which I denounced smileys (symbols like this :) ) and the people who used them in e-mail, including Scott Fahlman, who invented them. … For the record, I no longer agree with my own smileys editorial of 1993…

—Neal Stephenson, "Smileys: Fahlman 1, Stephenson 0"

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