As easy as they are to send, a passive-aggressive emoji can be infuriatingly obnoxious to receive. But are thumbs-up emojis really passive-aggressive?
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Communication is an interesting and intrinsic part of being human. The ability to effectively communicate using language is something that we can only do because of the development of the wonderful (and sometimes sadistic) thing that we call a brain. But for communication to be clear, it needs a sender, a receiver, a medium, and context. Without context, all words are meaningless. So what happens when you take texting (a medium that is inherently robbed of voice and tone) and add pictures (which have their own voice, and people supply their own tone)? Nothing too good it seems.
Emojis or “picture characters” in Japanese, originated in Japan in the late ‘90s as part of text communication. The phenomenon only made a global breakthrough in 2011, when every teen that could work a phone started using them as a form of communication. 838 emojis are in popular use to this day. Whether or not they are an effective form of communication is a topic of a lot of debate, as although there are clear emotions displayed with the pictures, the tone behind them can vary depending on the context. It is not the emoji that is the problem, it turns out, but the interpretation (or rather the misinterpretation) of the tone that is. Texting is a form of communication that has little tone when it isn’t clearly injected, and when communication is absent of tone, a receiver will often apply their own (which is usually incorrect).
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What Using Emojis Says About You
There are many interpretations of what using emojis says about you, and apparently, Gen Z people think it makes a person look old and out of touch (according to Prospectus Global).
According to a poll from Tel Aviv University, emojis make you appear less powerful in the eyes of the person you are sending them to as “picture-use signals a greater desire for social proximity.” I can see why this might be an issue in the workplace, but in the rest of the social context, why is this a problem? “In some situations, especially in a work or business environment, [sending emojis] may be costly, because it signals low power.” So a lawyer maybe wouldn’t want to use emojis when speaking to clients or other lawyers, but that’s just basic texting etiquette isn’t it? You would be surprised.
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Gen Z Opinion of Emojis
Cancel culture seems to be coming for those who use passive-aggressive emojis, and emojis themselves, as a survey of 2000 people between the ages of 16 and 29 years old were asked about their use of emojis and how they feel about others. Respondents sent an average of 80 emojis per week, and 22% of respondents reported that they use multiple emojis in a text to make a message clearer so that there is no opportunity for misunderstandings.
According to Yahoo News, the ten worst emojis are the grimacing face (the wide-toothed smile that isn’t quite a smile), the kiss mark, the clapping hands, the monkey eye cover (monkey see), the loudly crying face, the poo emoji, the check mark, the ‘Ok’ hand, the red heart, and the worst one of all is the thumbs up (declared a passive-aggressive emoji). The thumbs-up emoji has been called hostile and rude, equivocal to the new ‘K’ that our parents hated so much.
While the issue behind emojis could easily be turned into one about generations, that isn’t the case, the problem is that they are far too easy to misunderstand.
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Passive-Aggressive Emojis In The Workplace
Professor Vyvyan Evans, the author of The Emoji Code, says that “A common prejudice is that an emoji is the equivalent of an adolescent grunt, a step back to the dark ages of illiteracy, making us poorer communicators in the process – maybe even dumber.”
There is a time and a place for all things. When it comes to talking to your friends who have similar mindsets or can pick up the nuances in your conversation, easily understanding your tone, an emoji may not be inappropriate. In a business setting, where clear communication is a necessary part of a cohesive team, maybe opt for clarity. Emojis are social tools. Know when to use them, when they are appropriate and when to avoid them for the clearest possible communication.
Do you agree with cancel culture that emojis (and passive-aggressive emojis) make the person using them look old? Or are you on the side that thinks it’s a tool that can be effectively used in the right contexts? Let us know which side of the coin you are sitting on.
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