I'm just going to come right out and say it. I am not a huge fan of emoticons. I do not use a happy face to indicate happiness, or a sad face to indicate sadness. I don't even use LOL when texting or IMing, as I prefer a simple "ha!" to get the idea of laughter accross.
However, I will acknowledge that I am in the minority. If there was a battle, I lost. Emoticons have won, and I accept their place in the world. I will even admit that they can make the tone of an email or text or whatever clear if the words themselves don't convey the proper meaning. I don't use them myself, but if someone sends me a frowny face or a confused face, I understand their meaning and move on with my life.
The winky face. If there is one emoticon I cannot stand, it is the winky face. You know the one I mean:
The intended meaning, as far as I'm aware, is to convey cheekiness or sassiness. And it drives me up the freaking wall. Because here is the thing. In real life, people smile at each other, or frown, or have big smiles, or stick out their tongues (which, ugh), or look surprised. All of which have a corresponding emoticon to convey these expressions.
Do you know what people don't do? Wink at each other. Constantly wink at each other. And if they do, they should stop, because I'm sure they'll just develop a twitch of some kind.
There only two contexts I can think of where winking is appropriate in real life.
One: If you are playing a joke on someone and want to let someone they are with in on the joke subtly. A wink at that person while continuing the joking will get that message across, and then hopefully they'll get in on the joke and you'll all have some fun times.
Two: A pickup wink, done in jest. Possibly accompanied by finger guns. This works in almost any circumstance in life, and is generally delightful.
That's it! Those are the only two situations in which you should be winking! Or maybe if you're trying to get a contact back in place. But blinking would also accomplish this, so let's forget that one.
So, when I see people (and god help me, so many people do this) use the winky face after a comment they mean to be funny, all I can think is STOP STOP STOP! If you need to use an emoticon (and I really must stress that no one needs to use an emoticon) in that case, will the smiley face not do? What is wrong with the good old smiley face? Are you too good for the smiley face??
Your cheekiness comes across as far less cheeky if you have to tell me you're being cheeky! (Also, the work cheeky looks funny when you write it too many times. Cheeky.) Would you really wink in real life after you said whatever you just said? I thought not. It's just dumb. Stop it.
However, if someone develops an emoticon for the double finger guns, I will have to bow to their genius and gladly allow all winky face/double finger gun emoticon combos, as they will be hilarious.