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Emoticons, or smilies, are symbols used to create a picture. Sometimes you have to bend your head a little to get the picture. To view a :) just tilt your head to the left. You can see two eyes and a smile.
Different emoticons express different feelings.
:) means the user is happy.
:( means the user is sad.
You can find a list of various emoticons and what they mean by visiting http://www.windweaver.com/emoticon.htm