How are emojis used correctly?

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At first, there was only the emoticon. Period, comma, dash – the possible options for expressing feelings in the digital world were very limited. The first ideas for these emoticons date back to computer scientist Scott Fahlman, who was looking for ideas to underline funny or ironic statements in chats with symbols. Emoticons were born.

From emoticons to emoji

Today, expressing feelings with periods, commas and dashes is no longer enough. Even emoticons are now a thing of the past. Today, emojis touch the nerve of the times. We are talking about small graphics comparable to smileys, which are represented with facial expressions, like animals or everyday objects.

The success of emojis today is unstoppable. Hundreds of these different-looking creations are created every year. And once you get started, these emojis appear on more and more computers and phones.

Too many emojis get on the recipients’ nerves

A new generation of emoji has invaded us in recent months with depictions of the now-extinct giant bird dodo, a military helmet, olives, or organs like the heart and lungs. Many cats are no longer imaginable today without representations. However, it is important to ensure that the text components and emojis are always proportionate to each other. Because it can be fun for message senders to distribute images virtually. But the representations in the chats take over and the recipients quickly feel annoyed by them. There are even now preliminary studies on this effect.

According to a study by linguist Margrit Siever of the University of Zurich, some subjects were downright annoyed by an excess of emojis. Some of the interviewees even indicated that they could no longer take the senders of the messages seriously if they used emojis excessively. Pure emoji responses like a thumbs-up are even flagged as lazy or disrespectful.

A great risk of misunderstandings

Misunderstandings are not uncommon in interpersonal relationships. However, this does not only apply to words, but also to emojis. On the contrary: interpretations of images are often influenced by cultural attitudes and are therefore not comprehensively comprehensible. A classic example is the Sleepy Face emoji, which features a face with closed eyes, blue nose drops, and an open mouth. European cultures mainly present this image as sad, as the blue part of the image is interpreted as a tear. However, those who understand Japanese manga imagery define this emoji as tired.

This is even the case of emoji-like flashing smileys, whose meaning seems indeed clear. Because while most recipients classify the winking smiley as ironic or funny, other people even interpret the depiction as a provocation.

Emojis present a great risk of misunderstandings
Emojis pose a great risk of misunderstandings – as interpretations are influenced by cultural attitudes

Possible display issues

To make matters worse, the display of emoticons can also be problematic at times. A typical example is hands placed on top of each other, which many recipients interpret as a high five. But in some variants, a person is visible in the background. It is therefore clear that no one will applaud.

There are simply no fundamental statements as to which smiley wants to convey which message. Accordingly, the meaning of the individual images largely depends on the respective context. Therefore, the message of the emojis always depends on what the respective messages refer to and what statements the symbols are combined with. Another important role in the relationship is that both chat partners take care of each other.

Strategic uses of emojis

Studies have now shown that emoji users basically use the representations for two functions. One possible option is to use smileys to provide interpretation aids or to provide additional information. Otherwise, senders use these representations to maintain relationships. In the first function, emojis are used, for example, when friends want to let each other know that they are bored by a certain topic.

With a kiss emoji or a heart-shaped smile, senders show the recipient that they really love the other person. Therefore, representations can also be considered for strategic uses. Smileys also create a positive mood, even if they are associated with bad news. In this way, the message left could seem less negative.

Avoid using emojis in business messages

The situation is different when emojis are sent in a professional context. Smileys and the like should therefore never be used in a professional e-mail. With this form of communication, the risk is simply too high that smileys will cause misunderstandings. In the private sphere, it is also important to adapt to the communication habits of the chat partner. Anyone who sends a lot of emojis will definitely be happy with one or the other pictorial representation. If you completely do without images in your messages, you certainly won’t miss the images in chats either.

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