One of the most commonly believed urban myths of the modern age is that it’s impossible to be truly sarcastic online, since sarcasm requires context clues like facial expression and vocal tone to be effective. For instance, to the uninitiated, this tweet:


Was just shopping & Taylor Swift came on in the store. I never really listened closely to her lyrics, but….they’re pretty awesome πŸ™‚

would look like nothing more than a sweet β€” if misguided β€” compliment from the singer of “Good Girls Go Bad” to the ultimate Good Girl. Those versed in the art of online shorthand, however, recognize the symbol of light-hearted happiness at the end of the tweet for what it really is: a Passive-Aggressive Smiley.

The Passive-Aggressive Smiley contains enough sass (i.e. “raised eyebrow, caustic tone”-style hostility) within the confines of its colon and closed-parenthesis to lend a tweet or a text message or even a hand-written note all the vitriol you could ever need. For instance:

— Next time your roommate borrows your favorite dress and then throws up on it, forgo a physical confrontation β€” just text her: “Hey, saw you borrowed my dress! So glad you took good care of it :)”.

— Suitemate eats the last of your drunken noodle? Leave a note on the fridge: “Glad you left some for me :)”

— See a Facebook picture of your ex with someone else? Just comment with a lone “:)”, and it’ll be clearer than crystal.

Oh, and if you get back a paper and the comments include a “:)” β€” you might not want to bother checking the grade.