Help is at hand

Yes, life is sometimes somewhat perplexing. Who to trust, what to read, and “what the hell did she mean by that?”. And that’s just to mention a few of the problems humans have had to face ever since we figured out how to communicate. But now, the stakes are higher, what with Google making us stupid (or, stupid making us Google), and the information overload generally taxing our attention-deficit disorders.

We’ve all received those emails where it’s not quite clear whether the sender is joking, or perhaps laying on some not-so-obvious sarcasm. One of the things readers have to do in these instances is some interpretive work, where you try to balance what you know about the person, and your history of correspondence with them, in order to determine the implicit meaning of a sentence or letter. This activity is most likely beneficial to us in some respects, as we practice our interpretive skills, and perhaps learn a little about psychology along the way.

And viewed from the perspective of the sender, conveying subtleties in the absence of face-to-face communication is also sometimes a challenging task – and one that we become better at through exercising the skills in question. For some, though, both the reading and the writing tasks described above are simply too much effort. Would it not be just great if you can dispense with the whole bother of trying to craft a sentence, and provide the reader with some completely unambiguous clue as to how to interpret your utterance?

SarcMarkYes it would, say Sarcasm, Inc. – the inventors of the SarcMark – who also tell us that the this symbol (denoting sarcasm) “makes punctuation cool again”, and also claim that by using the new SarcMark, “you’ll never be misunderstood again”. How cool is that? As pointed out by The Guardian:

The real breakthrough of Sarcasm, Inc is the realisation that, despite having used sarcasm and irony in the written word for hundreds of years, humans are simply too stupid to consistently recognise when someone has said the opposite of what they mean. The SarcMark solves that problem … Our prayers are answered.

This must surely be the dawning of a new and exciting era in communication. With the SarcMark as precedent, we will no doubt discover all sorts of ways in which we could be more efficient at communication. If you’re angry, or sad, or disappointed, you’ll be able to say exactly that with some clever punctuation mark – perhaps in increasing size depending on the depth of your feelings.

Gizmodo really said it all with the title of their article responding to this innovation:

SarcMark: For when you’re not smart enough to express sarcasm online.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.