The Etiquette Of Emoji


By now, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you have had at least one conversation that consisted of the use of only emojis and minimal text. If you haven’t, I am not quite sure what rock you have been living under, but I admire you for holding out against the insidious little emoji. It is a tricky move to determine when you have become comfortable enough with someone that you can incorporate these amazing little icons in your conversation without seeming weird or too forward.

(This whole concept is such a First World Problem, but I digress.)

As I scroll through my most recent conversations with my close friends, the texts are loaded with the two dancing girls and the margarita glass. Adding the emojis adds an extra “I can’t wait to see you” element that spices up the blue and white drab linguistic text.

Yet still, the emoji demands a delicate hand. A guy once asked me out with almost nothing but emoji, which was cute and all, but I was a little turned off because what would happen when we had to rely on words instead of characters? It was a tough call: I didn’t want to ruin my chance with a fun-loving and carefree guy all over a couple of symbols, but his excessive use tore apart the first impression that I had had of him. He had rushed into the emoji relationship.

The question is, when do you know someone well enough to start adding emojis to the conversation? You would never text your boss something like, “Sorry, I’m running a little bit late because of heavy traffic but I will be there as soon as I can [car, angry face, princess]” — would you? It may be too heavy to text a classmate that you barely know about a group project with, “I will have my part of the presentation to you by 10pm tonight [book, pen, confetti].” This just makes you seem like you may be too much to handle.

There are unwritten rules of text and emoji etiquette that we must not break if we want to exist in the balance between fun and oversharing. (A picture speaks a thousand words, after all.) Unless you are texting your close friends, don’t over use the princess icon because it may send the wrong message that you are a spoiled brat.

Don’t send the poop emoji too soon to someone that you don’t know because they may misconstrue your character as crude. For instance, you probably shouldn’t text a co-worker something like “Don’t go into women’s bathroom on this floor… someone’s morning coffee must’ve been really strong [poop, masked face]”.

We all have the friend who will send entire graphic stories using only emojis. These are always amusing and probably brighten your day for a few seconds, but that is because we receive them from our closest allies. The use of emoji is a rite of passage for a friendship. It’s almost like you have to be in the trenches of friendship together for a while before you are on the same cognitive plane to communicate with symbols. If someone violates this, and goes straight from acquaintances to Emoji BFF, it’s a little off-putting.

We live in a world that is notorious for always being connected. We use emojis as an extra little something to feel validated. Half of the time, when I am sending [confetti, confetti, confetti] I am doing so with a straight face. We have grown up decoding what texts mean. Don’t tell me that you have never received a simple text message from a friend and thought, “wait.. is she mad at me?” Emojis help clear up this confusion. They add levity and perspective.

Millennials are a generation of transition. We were born in a world without cell phones and popular internet, but we also witnessed their births and grew up alongside the internet and modern technology. We’ve learned how to multitask, how to send information in microscopic fragments. Do we text instead of call because we’re lazy? Do we use emojis instead of texting because we’re lazier still? I mean, imagine your grandparents sending emojis. Their generation communicated via house phone where they had to sit in their family room and chat with their parents within earshot. The constant need for us to stay connected and feel validated is a phenomenon that has been analyzed by many psychologists in the recent decade. What happened to us? What will the long term effects be? Are we all going to be in the nursing homes in 2075, glued to our phones? Will we ever get a cheese emoji?

The world is an ever-changing phenomenon, emojis are just the beginning of what’s to come.