Is Your Emoji Sending the Wrong Message?
That smiling face you sent your friend to comment on how cute her new baby is might actually be communicating an entirely different reaction -- like “Really?” or “I’m so surprised that you successfully mated.”
Researchers found that people who looked at the exact same emoji disagreed on whether the picture expressed a positive, neutral or negative feeling about 25% of the time. And for 95% of emojis, people did not strongly agree on what sentiment the image was meant to express.
In this study, 334 people rated a total of 125 emojis. They were asked to evaluate what an emoji expressed on a scale from -5 (strongly negative) to 5 (strongly positive).
On average, when two people viewed the same emoji, their sentiment ratings differed by an average of about 1.8 points, and when they viewed different renderings of the same emoji, their ratings differed by about 2 points.
Further complicating the matter, emojis are particularly problematic when the sender and the receiver are using different mobile platforms (for example, when the sender has an iPhone, but the receiver has a Samsung phone). That's because each platform has its own versions of emojis.
As an example of the disparity of reactions, when people viewed the iPhone version of the emoji character "grinning face with smiling eyes," they tended to interpret it as a mildly negative emoji, but when they viewed this emoji character as it appears on a Microsoft, Samsung or Google phone, they interpreted it as a positive emoji.
So sometimes those little icons may be the way to go (maybe hearts, for instance), and sometimes words may still be the best way to send the clearest message.