Do you give emojis a thumbs up or a thumbs down?

Today, 17th July, is World Emoji Day! Who knew?! There’s a myriad of awareness days but is World Emoji Day one you will celebrate or one you are quite happy to overlook? Do emojis make you smile and do you value them as a communication tool? Or do they leave you with a sad face and find them a source of confusion? In our current situation with less face-to-face interaction – do emojis help us convey emotion, tone and feeling in this virtual world?

Emojis appear to be ubiquitous across social media and messaging apps. According to Emojipedia, 6 of the 9 most frequently used emojis (at the time of writing) were smileys or gestures rather than food and drink, animals, or transport. Perhaps this is unsurprising – as smiley and gesture emojis can help us convey non-verbal communication cues in the context of written messages.

In our fast-paced world, do emojis help satisfy our need for speed? Perhaps there’s a feeling of emoji efficiency? For example, a simple thumbs up is a fast and efficient way of communicating that a message has been received and understood.

Time for some self-reflection… if you use emojis, what’s your motivation? Do you think emojis help to convey feelings to reflect your mood? Does it makes it quicker for you to get your message across? Do you think they help you to come across as a friendlier person? If you’re asking for a favour, a smiley face at the end of the message helps, right?

Or are we kidding ourselves by thinking the use of emojis in our written communication provides a more nuanced message? We could be! A pilot study by Brants et al. (2019) discovered that the use of emojis to convey anger, surprise, joy and sadness were generally understood in the way intended. However, there was less agreement for emojis depicting disgust and fear. Isn’t this the same as trying to interpret other peoples’ thoughts and feelings during face-to-face situations? There are many occasions when emotions are misinterpreted even when you’re in the same room as the person you’re speaking to. So pinning our hopes on the use of emojis to express ourselves in short written communications and for people to consistently reach the same conclusion could be a stretch!

If the intended meaning of emojis can be lost in translation, why do they continue to be popular? Thinking back to our good old school days, it wasn’t uncommon for a teacher to draw a smiley face alongside positive feedback. Could it be more about wanting to emphasize a particular aspect of a written message?

How many successful advertising campaigns have you come across which have been fully loaded with text? Which PowerPoint presentation would you rather sit through, one that is text heavy or one with text and pictures? Is there an element of emojis helping to make our messages and social media posts more aesthetically pleasing? Looking again at the list of frequently used emojis – none of them are negative.

So generally, do we put emojis to positive use? This theory would also fit with the smiley face drawn by a teacher alongside positive comments back in our school days! Whilst a hand-drawn smiley face from a teacher may have put a spring in your step at school, how do you feel about them in the workplace? Are they generally accepted, or frowned upon?

And what role might they play in healthcare? We’re all familiar with the Visual Analogue Scale, perhaps one of the earliest forms of emoji, created for use in clinical settings where language cannot be assumed. But the humble emoji has also been found to play a role in improving hand hygiene. A pilot intervention by Gaube et al. (2018) found that hand sanitizer dispensers with a frowning face that turned into a smiling face when used were utilized more frequently than thosw without. So it seems that in this workplace and healthcare setting (a German hospital), people appreciated a simple smiley face reinforcing positive behaviour.

Whether you give emojis a thumbs up or a thumbs down, it looks like they are here to stay! Do you know why 17th July was chosen to celebrate emojis? Well, this is the date displayed by the calendar emoji, obviously.

Are you enjoying or enduring world Emoji Day? Let us know with a carefully selected emoji 😉

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