To emoji or not to emoji?


Expressing emotions and tone appropriately through text can prove to be a difficult task. Oftentimes we resort to using smiley faces, or if you’re like me you tend to sprinkle a few “lols” in your message to reassure the recipient that whatever you’re saying really isn’t that serious. But even then, it’s still possible to completely misinterpret the tone of a conversation. Text conversations are delicate situations to deal with.

Recently, our ability to express emotion has vastly improved with the addition of emojis. Not unlike emoticons used in instant messengers like AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, etc., emojis are little graphics that are much more detailed than our simple “colon parenthesis” solutions of yesteryear. Emojis have a vast, ever-increasing catalog of facial expressions, animals, weather, food and drink, sports… those are just some of the categories of emojis you can use. Very seldom is there not a relevant emoji available.

I never thought that I would care much for emojis, but I have found them to be fun. Rarely do they ever serve a necessary purpose; most of the time I just use them to make a text more interesting by adding them for flair. Recently I’ve decided to start sending a random animal emoji when I don’t know how to respond to a text.

The interesting thing about emojis is that each platform features differently designed emojis. Sometimes emoji design can even vary depending on the manufacturer. The result is that emojis will often end up “lost in translation”. Some of these emojis, while trying to convey the same emotion can look so different from one another that they look like they’re conveying different emotions.

For example, take a look at the difference between these “frowning open mouth” icons between Android and iOS are pretty different. Apple’s emoji looks surprised, while Android’s blob looks disgusted.


Here’s another set of emoji that has a subtle difference between the two: the “confused” emoji.


Android’s emoji seems to display confusion clearer than Apple’s, whose emoji looks more disappointed or concerned rather than confused.

So, depending on whether you’re sending emojis with somebody who is using another platform or not, you may still experience that same tone confusion that seems to be inevitable through text. It’s for this reason that I tend to stay away from using the emojis that use facial expressions when texting somebody I know is using another platform. There have been a number of times that I’ve sent an emoji that, on my end, made sense, but got a reply like “Why did you send that face?” (The below example is one that I particularly remember happening to me, from an iOS to an Android device. Apparently it is supposed to be a grimacing face, but on iOS I thought it looked like a cheesy grin.)


Fortunately, Android N’s update will be taking a step towards eradicating this issue by making their emojis closer to Apple’s, even if the namesake of the emoji isn’t as accurately depicted on Apple’s end. However, as Jacob Kastrenakes over at The Verge puts it, “maintaining that meaning across platforms is far more important than nailing the named emotion,” and I couldn’t agree more – keeping the expressions consistent seems to be key here to avoid confusion.

I’ve grown to like emojis quite a bit. Many see them as unprofessional and childish – and there are plenty of situations where emoji use would be inappropriate. However, they do have their place, and they serve a greater purpose. While they don’t completely convey the same tone and meaning that we are able to detect with face-to-face conversation, they do help to fill that void.