Emojis in Digital Communication: Are They Good or Bad?

Language is Crucial

Image by John Hain from Pixabay
Image by John Hain from Pixabay 

You could call me a bit of a language-purist. In my defence, I was brought up that way. My mother always insisted that we used the appropriate words. Both my parents encouraged me to read as much as I wanted. I went to university where I studied English Language and Culture, part of which is Linguistics. What I’m trying to say here is that language is essential to me. Correctly using language is crucial to me. Something that has been bugging me for years now is how I feel the need to add emoticons to my written communication. Why do I need a small icon when I should be able to convey the same meaning with words? What’s wrong with me?

The First Emoticons

Let’s begin with an explanation of what I’m talking about here. Emoticons were invented only a few weeks after I was born in September 1982. According to Encyclopaedia Brittanica, Dr Scott E. Fahlman suggested that jokes and nonjokes be marked by two sets of characters we now recognise as standard emoticons: the smiley face : – ) and the frowning face : – (
Emojis were invented in 1999 by Shigetaka Kurita and were intended for a Japanese user base. No longer needing the constraints of a keyboard, emoji are pictographs of faces, objects and symbols. Right now these are used the most in popular culture.

Academic Research

Believe it or not, but there has been done ample academic research into the usage of emoji. One such study said the following: Results showed that emoticons are mostly used to express emotion, to strengthen a message, and to express humour. Furthermore, more emoticons were used in communication with friends than in communication with strangers, and more emoticons were used in a positive context than in a negative context.
Where another study said this: By accepting emojis as embodied stand-ins of interactants (i.e. nonverbal information that connects emotions and attitudes between senders and receivers), we can begin to correctly ascertain their enormous value as interpersonal tools within digital environments.
Both these studies stress the importance of both emoticons and emoji in Computer-Mediated Communication. For some reason or other, humans prefer to use images to express feelings or to emphasise a message.

More Emojis = Better at Sex

There was another issue that I had come across on Twitter, but one that I could hardly believe. I found the original academic study which held this statement:

Our findings suggest that emoji use with potential partners is associated with maintaining connection beyond the first date, and more romantic and sexual interactions over the previous year. This research provides evidence that emojis convey important affective information to potential partners, and are potentially associated with more successful intimate connection.

Short version: When you use more emoji, you’re better in bed.

Another quote from the same text:

In other words, we find that the use of emojis allows daters to communicate important affective information to potential partners which facilitates successful intimate connection and more romantic and sexual opportunities.

It’s a useful tool to show your potential partner how you feel. Even if you’re only chatting online, you’re still able to reach that deeper connection that you would want for an intimate relationship.

Maybe Not That Bad

I didn’t know emoji were this effective and even necessary. In a time where we communicate a lot in digital ways, we miss a lot of fundamental physical cues. Eye contact, looking away, facing down, these are are elements you don’t have while tapping at a keyboard. Or maybe you have them, but the other party can’t see them. That’s when you use emojis. And you should continue to use them.
I think I feel less guilty now about using them while chatting or even in the occasional business contact that I have. It’s just my way of expressing my deeper emotions. And now that I know the more emoticons I use, the better they’ll think I am in bed, let’s have at it: 😄😝😈🥳😏🤪🤣


Links used in this blog post:

Abstract Most past studies assume that computer-mediated communication (CMC) lacks nonverbal communication cues. However, Internet users have devised and learned to use emoticons to assist their co…

https://digitalcommons.gardner-webb.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1011&context=english_etd

Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is pervasive in our lives, influencing social interaction including human courtship. To connect with potential partners via CMC, modern relationship-seekers must master faster and shorter methods of communicating self-disclosure and affect. Although CMC can lack crucial sensory information in this context, emojis may provide useful aid. Across two studies, we assessed attitudes toward and frequency of emoji use, and whether signaling affect via emoji use relates to more romantic and sexual opportunities. Our findings suggest that emoji use with potential partners is associated with maintaining connection beyond the first date, and more romantic and sexual interactions over the previous year. This research provides evidence that emojis convey important affective information to potential partners, and are potentially associated with more successful intimate connection. Implications for multiple theoretical models and methodologies are discussed.

14 Comments

  1. This is so interesting to read, that there were studies about emojis and how effective they are to use. I like using them in casual talks, and very occasionally I use them in business mail too, depending on how long I’ve had contact with the other person. However, I do tend to limit myself to only a couple of emoji.
    ~ Marie

    1. It sounds like you’re doing it exactly right, according to the studies I read 😄
      The distance we perceive in a physical environment correlates exactly with the amount of emojis used. So in a formal setting with more (perceived) distance, we use less emojis. It’s quite fascinating how the brain works 😝

      (Lol, now I’m extra conscious of every emoticon used 😉)
      Thanks for reading, Marie ☺️

      Lizblackx
  2. Fascinating read, I had no idea that research supports use of emoji.
    My speech style is sarcastic humour, I’ve learnt, at my own cost, intonation us everything.
    I have my favourite emoji to Express myself now

    Great blog
    Swirly 🌻

    1. Thanks, I have many instances of this myself. While chatting and I made a funny, sarcastic remark that just fell flat because there was no intonation. Had I added an emoji back then, it might have saved the day ☺️

      Lizblackx
  3. Wow the research is so interesting. Can’t believe it helps for potential partners. Lol at being better in bed when you use emojis.
    On one hand it makes sense I guess. In the absence of body language, an emoji can help bring across the right one of a sentence.
    I also feel less guilty now about using them! I always thought people would look down on it if you wanted to come across as an adult lol. But sounds like emojis are actually really helpful!

    1. I feel the same 😄
      Now that I talk a lot through WhatsApp, I use a gazillion more emojis than I have ever done before. And yes, I’m happy that even academic research says this is all right ☺️

      Lizblackx
  4. I use them for emphasis but I despise a message back that is nothing but emojies, Well except when single one back can represent a reply that the message was received in the proper manner. I know it sounds crazy but when one of my friends sends me like 8+ in a row to express a message I just shake my head and sigh.

    1. 8+ emojis in a row? Oh man, that’s bad.
      I do answer with just an emoji now and then if I don’t know what to say. There’s only so much you can say to the next cute cat gif.

      Lizblackx
  5. Fascinating Liz!
    I never use many emojis but that’s probably because my machines are soooo old it takes ages for any of them to appear when i am searching for them 😉 – so I do that instead – but I never seem to get past the winking face or the <3 – cause i can make these myself
    May xx

    1. That’s all right ☺️
      If I’m talking fast and I’m too lazy to pick out an emoji, I usually type : ) or : p
      It’s only very recently that I discovered a keyboard shortcut to the emoticons window 🤭

      Lizblackx
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  7. I am just browsing through your posts. This is quite interesting. My personal experience is rather less encouraging. A date and I used emojis but we both attached very different meanings to for example the heart and kiss emoji…needless to say it led to a lot of mutual misunderstanding. I try to avoid them at least until I know a person better.

    1. One of the conclusions in this research was that using emoticons mimics real life encounters and interactions. So yes, unfortunately, also misunderstandings such as these. But then again, the same thing can happen in written words.

      Lizblackx

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