Why I Mostly Do Not Use Tone Indicators [Apr. 25th 2023]

Content warning: None | Word Count: 652

For a long time, I've said that I can't use tone indicators, short tags like /j and /s to indicate joking, sarcasm, and more over text. That's mostly true. At least, I don't use them, and I won't. The idea of using them conflicts with something about my core self. For a while--probably years, at this point--I've attributed this to being Autistic.

I'm monotone. I wouldn't call my affect flat, because I certainly have a tone, but it's a very singular and consistent one. And that tone is, or comes off as, very aggressive, determined, angry, and a little smug. The difference between me being "affectionate" and being critical is one that really only the people who share my head and my girlfriend can identify easily.

A lot of that being monotone is autism. I don't express my emotions the way I'm supposed to, in my expression or my tone. But a large portion of that is also, probably, the fact that I'm a sociopath.

I'm very much clinically antisocial. No part of me aligns with neurotypical emotional expression or responses. My range of emotion is, I think, much narrower than most others. I don't feel happy, just pleased and satisfied. I'm very rarely excited. I enjoy my girlfriend's presence, and I would fight, debate, and possibly kill for her, but I don't feel the emotion associated with love that I know she feels for me. That discussion is for another time. The point is, I don't feel the normal emotions, feel them in a normal way, or express them normally because I'm a sociopath with autism.

Along with that, I have a complete lack of affective empathy--the ability to feel what others feel. I feel very little sympathy and compassion. I have a rigid moral code and sense of justice, which means I care about others and to an extent about their feelings. But the impact of my tone? Their misinterpretations of it? No, not really.

I'll clarify my tone if someone asks, but I won't label my regular sarcasm. A piece of me feels that if someone takes my sarcasm at face value, doesn't ask questions, and is hurt by that, that it's more their problem than mine. Of course, it's not that simple. Tone tags are popular now largely because many simply cannot identify sarcasm over text, period. The fact that I often use irony isn't always something the person I'm talking to will know. And I do adjust my speech around people depending on how well they know me in large part because of that.

But almost every time I use sarcasm, I'm making statements that obviously conflict with my worldview; "the woke left have truly ruined X" is not a phrase I will ever say unironically, and you don't need to know me well to clue into that. So, while anyone can ask me to clarify, and my headmates may sometimes add a tag for me, I don't feel compelled to tag tone.

Is it your fault if you're confused? Maybe. Probably not. But I'm unconvinced that I'm responsible for correcting others' assumptions before they make them when it comes to these things. I don't care enough. I will never care enough. And I don't care because, on a certain level, I can't.

So, technically, could I use tone indicators when I type? Yes. But in the real-world scenario where I'm actually talking to someone over text? Not really, no.

I will say, though, before I close this out, that this is not an argument against tone indicators, and if a non-sociopath/psychopath/clinical antisocial uses this to explain their dislike of using tone tags they've missed the point entirely. I don't dislike tone tags. Reading them makes me feel nothing, and I benefit from them a large amount of the time. I just can't/won't tag my own tone as I type, and this is why.