Emojis Are Fun, but They’re Killing Conversations

Emojis are redefining the adage, ‘It’s not what you say, but how you say it’. The little smiley faces livened up conversations when we were bound to our homes. These fun zingy patches crushed digital barriers and brought teams closer than any engagement activity when we were distributed across the globe. In fact, we used these emojis so much that we nearly ran out and added 334 new emojis in 2021. So, what is the fuss about?

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had my share of fun with emojis. The devil face, winky tongue-out face, heart icon, and heck even the poop emoji (for agonisingly bad days). Emojis add feelings and a layer of playfulness. Want to deliver a rebuke? Package your critique with a zany emoji. Want to avoid a party? Cancel with a neutral, pensive, and sad emoji. But close with a party face to let them know they are under no obligation to postpone on your account.

But I’m worried we’ve pushed it to the limit. We’re letting these little yellow rascals take over our conversations, and sometimes even stifling them.

Emojis minus words equals a languid response

On Instagram, there were days when friends would share a link to a funny meme or a video and replies would range from a simple “Haha, I so needed to see this today” to a detailed “This is so funny like when we went here and this happened with that guy”. Today though, we make do with the crying-with-laughter emoji or the rolling-over-laughing emoji. Can we stop with this deadpan done-to-death response? Share something more than that.

On WhatsApp, we would find boisterous exchanges of opinions. Now, healthy arguments are reduced to gestures like a thumbs up, namaste, or angry face. The ins and outs of Indian politics are no longer defended with nuanced text-heavy rationale. People just tap a reaction and move on.

Also read: Gen-Z, Living and Learning in a World of Social Media

Photos of family gatherings shared on social media would leave a trail of messages ranging from “Oh, so pretty” to “We should do this with all of us next time”. Those responses today are reduced to heart eyes. Yes, the smileys with hearts for eyes seem to be the response for everything that is gorgeous, adorable, cute, beautiful, and lovely. Share a picture of a puppy, and get heart eyes. Share a picture of your baby, and get heart eyes. Share a picture of you in a pretty outfit, and get heart eyes plus flames.

Stop the emoji takeover

Emojis are exploiting our attention and our need for instant gratification. In our quest for a shot of dopamine and a dose of oxytocin, we ‘heart’ stories and drop a ‘thumbs up’ for achievements, hoping for reciprocation. We reserve our ‘clap’ for exceptional recognitions like a well-deserved promotion, a friend’s graduation, or the five stars on a child’s math paper.

It’s a paradox that technology that allows us to observe the lives of friends, friends’ friends, friend’s dog, ex-lovers, and even an emu in South Florida in one feed, is the same technology that’s restraining us from being generous with words. Once logged in, we initiate our social media recee. Swipe up, left and right, and stop occasionally with an intent to respond with a few words, but get ambushed by the little yellow patches.

The emojis jump at you, rather mockingly, that you would rather use your brain to find the right words to capture your sentiments, string a sentence, and deliver a wholesome response than just leave an inconsequential tap. The tap is like a bouquet of red roses alright, but it’s akin to leaving it at the doorstep instead of handing it to the person.

Tell people what you feel, combine emojis with words and give people a wholesome response. Wait for folks to pay it forward and enjoy the marvellous feeling.

Romi Rajendran writes for a living, much to the chagrin of her bosses. But she thinks she’s getting better. 

Featured image:  Domingo Alvarez E / Unsplash