Ever sent out a social media update - or an email - and wished you could convey a bit more emotion? Thanks to a New Yorker cartoonist, now you can. Smurks, drawn by Pat Byrnes, is an app that lets you amp up your emotions on Facebook, twitter and email. You will need to go through the same basic steps as you do to install most apps to go from 🙂 to Smurks.
We communicate across more digital platforms than ever today with increasingly less face-to-face contact . What does this mean in terms of miscommunications, missed opportunities, cyber bullying and more? Pat Byrnes is the creative genius behind an addictive new app called Smurks, which is designed to prevent misunderstandings online and even help us emote with our Smart phones.
Question: Someone joked that Smurks are not emoticons, but Imoticons. Is that what you would call them?
Pat: That’s a clever take on it, because Smurks is the first emotional language designed specifically for the iPhone’s unique abilities. But even “Imoticons” doesn’t go far enough. Smurks have unprecedented depth of feeling. A subtle, intuitive gesture with your finger morphs the Smurks face into the exact expression of what you feel, which you then send from your iPhone or iPad via text, email, Facebook & Twitter. There’s only one word for anything that’s ever done that. Smurks.
Question: So how did you come up with the idea for Smurks?
Pat: As a cartoonist for The New Yorker, coming up with ideas is all in a day’s work. In the case of Smurks, I was trying to come up with a funny idea about the increasing brevity of our digital communications. I wanted to crack a joke about Twitter’s 140 character limit, suggesting that no one could possibly have that much to say. But I couldn’t make it snappy enough — or funny enough — for a cartoon. But the idea wouldn’t let go of me. I realized that it wasn’t a gag, it was something bigger: Sometimes there are no words to say, but there are volumes to express.
Question: How can PR & Marketing people use Smurks in their communications?
Pat: Business is all about relationships. Relationships are not built on information alone, but on trust. And you can’t build trust without an emotional connection. New technologies have given us the freedom to operate more remotely, but that comes with a loss of face time. Smurks rehabilitates a lot of that loss and thereby magnifies the value of these fabulous new technologies.
Question: Search engines are also now measuring positive sentiment, can Smurks help here too?
Pat: Absolutely. The way Smurks makes so many nuanced expressions work like a single animated face is to align them in a scientifically derived continuum. We have configured the first comprehensive 3-D mood map where each expression is a measurable data point. If you gathered the data of which Smurks people are using when they express feelings about your product, you could generate a meaningful picture of true customer satisfaction. You’d see if it that positive sentiment was soft or enthusiastic, sincere or cynical. The innate dimensionality of Smurks lets you do that. It turns fly-on-the-wall qualitative research into something quantifiable.
Question: Cyber bullying has been highlighted as an issue in the national news recently. How can Smurks help combat this problem?
Pat: It is shocking to see the cruelty people inflict on each other online. The anonymity of the internet cuts both ways; not only do people feel emboldened by not being seen, but they also find it easier to see others as abstract objects immune to hurt because they can’t see them. Smurks can act as a bulwark against bullying because it is harder to be cruel to someone when you see that person as a feeling human being who has the same emotions as you. Smurks is a universal language of emotion.
You could also take the example of someone posting a quick comment online or an email that could be interpreted different ways. Someone misreads it and fires back in anger. The flame builds, relationships are scorched. But if the reader of the initial message had understood the emotional context in which it was written, personal bonds may have been strengthened instead of destroyed.
Relationships are everything. This applies to business, but it applies even more to the rest of our lives. Relationships are built on the trust that comes with emotional connectedness. Connecting people on that very human level is what drives Smurks. Were it not for that possibility, the idea for Smurks would have been mothballed with so many other interesting ideas that flit through my head. I would never have taken the time and extreme pains to bring it to fruition, or been able to engage such wonderful and talented business partners who share the same vision.
Question: What are some other possible uses for Smurks in business and beyond?
Pat: Our technology department is very restless in exploring new and exciting uses for Smurks. I should mention that they are the reason that Smurks seems so effortlessly functional. Our Chief Propeller Head (his official title) Steve Landers loves nothing more than an impossible task — which has made Smurks a true labor of love, because we’ve dished up plenty of impossible tasks! In any case, the Propeller Heads have several future applications for Smurks in development, some of them quite groundbreaking in the area of neuroscience.
Our parent company Iconicast is in the business of humanizing digital communications and will be announcing some friendly new apps later this year.
Question: Where are Smurks available now?
Pat: Smurks is a 99-cent iPhone app currently available on the App Store. It is also coming soon for Android, because we believe that just because you use an Android doesn’t mean you have to be one. You are a human and should be able to express yourself like one. So you deserve Smurks too. People who want to know more about Smurks are also invited to explore our website, smurks.net . Be sure to watch the fun demo video, because no amount of explaining will ever do it justice. Smurks is, after all, beyond wurds.
Special thanks to Hesser Communications for facilitating this interview.
How about you? How do you express emotions in email and social media - beyond words?